Yehuda Z. Blum. Will "Justice" Bring Peace? International Law - Selected Articles and Legal Opinions. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2016. 504 pp. $198.00 (e-book), ISBN 978-90-04-23395-9; $198.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-90-04-23394-2.
Reviewed by Brian D. Green (Space Operations Command)
Published on H-War (January, 2021)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air University)
“No justice, no peace!” cry the demonstrators. In his 2016 collection of writings on international law, Yehuda Z. Blum thoughtfully responds, “Will ‘Justice’ Bring Peace?” Blum introduces his anthology with a meditation on this titular query. Hearkening back to the Psalms’ promises that “justice and peace will meet” (Ps. 85:11) and “law will again accord with justice” (Ps. 94:15), Blum reflects on decades of jurisprudence regarding disputes and questions of an international character. Having done so, he questions whether law or “justice,” as understood and practiced by fallible humans, will ever bring true peace this side of the Messianic kingdom.
The introduction serves as a helpful framework for interpreting the rest of the book, which is divided into two major sections. The first, comprising about 80 percent of the book, is a collection of Blum’s essays. These essays, written from the mid-1960s to the present era, cover a wide variety of topics, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to changes in the composition of the United Nations (UN) Security Council and the international rights and responsibilities that accrue to successor states, such as those that arose out of the former Yugoslavia. The second part of the book consists of selected legal opinions from the Israel Foreign Ministry, mostly revolving around matters of diplomatic and consular privileges and immunities. The book concludes with an appendix containing the most passionate piece in the volume, Blum’s 1984 cri de coeur to the UN secretary-general, which criticized how the UN had become a forum for the expression of anti-Semitic prejudice in direct contradiction of its founding principles.
A Holocaust survivor and longtime professor at Hebrew University, Blum worked in the legal department of the Israel Foreign Ministry from 1962 to 1965 and served as Israel’s ambassador and permanent representative to the UN in New York from 1978 to 1984, among other distinguished diplomatic and academic posts. He brings a lifetime’s worth of careful legal study, argumentation, and lived experience to this book, which provides invaluable perspectives on a host of international legal issues past and present. The essays in part 1 are thoroughly researched and thoughtfully argued, and are well worth considering by any student or practitioner of international law, especially in the guiding light of the introduction’s unifying theme. The legal opinions in part 2 are often more technical in nature and more focused on how Israel applies international law domestically, but they are short and do provide some interesting insights into such matters as who has authority to negotiate international agreements for a state and the scope of diplomatic immunity.
If you have any interest in the interplay of law, justice, and peace among nations, or in gaining an understanding on international law from the perspective of one of Israel’s foremost diplomats and legal scholars, this book is for you.
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