Yom Kippur in Hell
PROGRESS IN INTERNATIONAL LAW, Russell Miller and Rebecca Bratspies, eds., Martinus Nijhoff Press, 2008
16 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2007 Last revised: 13 Nov 2009
Date Written: February 26, 2007
This essay explores the idea, or rather the mirage, of progress in international law. It does so by examining a specific case study from the Cold War era: the conflict resolution efforts of the Security Council in the aftermath of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. It is contended that the paralysis that characterized the central peacemaking institution at this point in its history is not unique to the specific moment in time. Rather, the historic case study demonstrates that instances of international law's "progress", as scholars are prone to think of such significant institutional and doctrinal events, are more akin to markers along the meandering route of an empty vessel.
In terms of methodology, this essay traces a parallel between the themes of international law and the short stories of Yiddish writer I.L. Peretz. In particular, the essay uses as a parable Peretz' short story "Yom Kippur in Hell", in which a cantor who chants with a beautiful voice, but who is substantively lacking in devotion, is condemned. It is the theory of the essay that the futility of salvation through empty prayer neatly parallels the futility of progress through empty doctrine, as exhibited by international law.
Keywords: war, aggression, self-defense, Arab-Israeli conflict, Security Council, Resolution 242, Resolution 338, United Nations Charter, article 2(4), literature
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