2-part series examines ethics of 'War on Terror'

Posted Wednesday, Jul 29th, 2015

In the weeks and months following 9-11, the Bush administration launched what it named the “War on Terror” against militant Islam. With the realization that the West was doing battle not with a particular nation-state, but a worldwide terror network, many conventional methods of warfare suddenly became obsolete, as did the traditional definition of war.

Almost immediately, controversy erupted surrounding the advanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA to elicit information from suspected terrorists. Today, some contend that those interrogation techniques were actually torture, and thus illegal, adding that they were ineffective as well. At the same time, there has been significant pushback from the intelligence community, much of which continues to maintain that the techniques did, in fact, save lives.

How can the inherent conflict between maintaining national security and protecting civil liberties resolved? With the recent destabilization of much of the Middle East and the dawn of ISIS, this question has never been more relevant.

On Aug. 26 and Sept. 2, the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) will present Justice and the War on Terror, a special CLE-accredited two-part series which shines a light on this modern dilemma.

Rabbi Nochum Kurinsky of Chabad at the Beaches will conduct the two-part course at 7 p.m. at the Aaron and Blanche Scharf Chabad Center, 521 A1A N. in Ponte Vedra Beach, directly across the street from the Ponte Vedra library.

“The questions being asked in this series are unfortunately very pertinent today,” says Kurinsky, the local JLI instructor in Ponte Vedra. “We will be discussing the legal issues involved from the perspective of US law and contemporary Israeli law, and compare them with concepts laid out in Talmudic law.”

The second part of the course will focus on negotiating with terrorists for hostages. From Israel’s exchange of 1,027 prisoners for one captured IDF soldier, to the United States government’s insistence that ransom payments made by family of those kidnapped by ISIS were illegal, these life and death situations have real world bearing.

“The Jewish people have experienced similar situations throughout our arduous history,” explains Rabbi Zalman Abraham of JLI headquarters in New York. “When Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg was imprisoned for ransom in the Middle Ages, he ruled on his own abduction in light of Talmudic law.”

The rabbi refused to allow his students to pay his ransom, and he died in prison after seven years, where his body remained for a further 14 years until it was redeemed by a wealthy German Jew.

“His was a devastating, but principled course of action.”

Like all previous JLI programs, Justice and the War on Terror is designed to appeal to people at all levels of Jewish knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning. All JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple, or other house of worship.

Interested students may call (904) 543-9301 or visit www.ChabadBeaches.com/JLI for registration and other course-related information. JLI courses are presented in Ponte Vedra Beach in conjunction with Chabad at the Beaches.


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