Research Unit Law

Nathan Feinberg and His Contemporaries:

Jewish International Lawyers and the Sovereign Condition

The project seeks to capture the origins, terms, and fortunes of the twentieth century Jewish national engagement with international law. It traces the lives, politics, and works of Jewish international lawyers invested in Jewish nationalism, especially Nathan Feinberg (1895–1988), the first international law professor in the Yishuv/Israel. The project demonstrates that alongside a cosmopolitan critique of sovereignty by Jewish international law scholars, there had been, even before 1948, a competing Jewish international law project concerned with reflecting on the sovereign condition: a central preoccupation of national Jewish international lawyers who had to reconcile their political and ideological agenda with the fundamental dogma of their profession that viewed states alone as capable of holding sovereignty. For »national« Jewish international lawyers, sovereignty was both a path towards and an obstacle to emancipation. Feinberg and his likeminded contemporaries’ constant grappling with the sovereign condition produced a rich yet hitherto uncharted corpus of theoretical engagement that conditioned Jewish attitudes to international law, Jewish diplomacy, and Jewish political praxis and left an enduring yet unexplored mark on international law theory, doctrine, and practice.

PI: Yfaat Weiss, Israel Science Foundation Grant 1380/19