Law, Politics, and Morality in Judaism

By Michael Walzer | Go to book overview

5
Land and People

DAVID NOVAK

THE QUESTION of territorial boundaries has been ubiquitous in political discourse throughout history. That is because human life is inconceivable outside of a finite community and its structures. Those who do not need such a defined community are either gods or beasts, as Aristotle so well put it.1 Now one of the structures of any such defined human community is the place that it occupies. One could very well say that even when a human community does not regard its present place of occupation as permanent (as has been the case with the Jewish people for much of her history in exile), it nevertheless aspires to eventually occupy its own place in the world (as in the Jewish doctrine of the return to Zion).

The political question of territorial boundaries that has always been with us is the question of defining the proper limits between one place and another, and then determining just how the inhabitants of one such defined place are to interact with those who dwell within their own boundaries, as well as with those who dwell outside these same boundaries. The question of these boundaries is ubiquitous because it is historically inescapable. None of us are either from nowhere or on our way to nowhere. We are all both historical and geographical beings. Indeed, just as time and space cannot be separated in physics, as Einstein taught us, so it would seem that history and geography cannot be separated in political discourse. Even in the version of the Jewish messianic vision that sees one world polity as the goal of all human history, such a world polity is still oriented around Zion as the axis mundi.2 We can no more intelligently conceive of ourselves outside of a particular place than we can conceive of ourselves outside our own bodies. (Indeed, it is significant that the Jewish doctrine of the return to Zion is closely connected to the Jewish doctrine of the bodily resurrection of the dead.)3

As we can already see, for Jews, the question of territorial borders cannot be addressed outside of the whole issue of Zionism, not only Zionism (taken in the broadest sense of the term) as a doctrine of Jewish tradition, but Zionism as a historical reality that has led to the presence of the state of Israel among the nation-states in the world in which we now live. Territorial borders are usually seen as a practical political

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Law, Politics, and Morality in Judaism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Ethikon Series in Comparative Ethics ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Part I - Political Order and Civil Society 1
  • 1: Obligation 3
  • 2: Judaism and Civil Society 12
  • 3: Civil Society and Government 34
  • 4: Autonomy and Modernity 50
  • Part II - Territory, Sovereignty, and International Society 55
  • 5: Land and People 57
  • 6: Contested Boundaries 83
  • 7: Diversity, Tolerance, and Sovereignty 96
  • 8: Responses to Modernity 121
  • 9: Judaism and Cosmopolitanism 128
  • Part III - War and Peace 147
  • 10: Commanded and Permitted Wars 149
  • 11: Prohibited Wars 169
  • 12: Judaism and the Obligation to Die for the State 182
  • Contributors 209
  • Index 211
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