Ethics & International Affairs Volume 7 (1993): Articles in this Issue: Boycott Crime and Sin: Ethical and Talmudic Responses to Injustice Abroad [Abstract]

Dec 3, 1993

Zohar applies Talmudic views on communal sin to contemporary political discourse by posing the question "Are we our brothers' keepers?" The essay addresses international responsibility to protect victims of oppression worldwide. This discussion is particularly valuable in today's political system where the national sovereignty of a state may attempt to outweigh the victims' claim of persecution. While asserting that economic sanction, primarily boycott, in lieu of military action, is the most effective means of curtailing the actions of the oppressor government, he presents the views of Maimonides and Nachmanides on the Noahide Code of Jewish law. The former advocates full-scale embargo policy and holds all citizens responsible for acquiescing in the sins of their rulers and hence of communal sin, thereby justifying intervention. The latter, and more commonly accepted today, urges elimination of (direct or indirect) participation in the deeds of the perpetrators, the "clean-hands" approach, and hence allows for national boundaries to overshadow injustices occurring within them. Both types of boycott converge in that any transaction that fails to undermine the perpetrating regime is in some way facilitating its existence.

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