Lately, scholars have begun to pay serious attention to the Christian roots of current international human rights law–Samuel Moyn’s interesting work comes to mind. One shouldn’t be surprised to learn about Christian roots; Christians like Maritain and Malik were instrumental in the post-war human rights revolution, to cite just a couple of names. A new book from Yale University Press, Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century, by University of Virginia historian James Loeffler, makes the point that contemporary human rights law has Jewish roots as well. Here’s the description from the Yale website:
A stunningly original look at the forgotten Jewish political roots of contemporary international human rights, told through the moving stories of five key activists
The year 2018 marks the seventieth anniversary of two momentous events in twentieth-century history: the birth of the State of Israel and the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Both remain tied together in the ongoing debates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, global antisemitism, and American foreign policy. Yet the surprising connections between Zionism and the origins of international human rights are completely unknown today. In this riveting account, James Loeffler explores this controversial history through the stories of five remarkable Jewish founders of international human rights, following them from the prewar shtetls of eastern Europe to the postwar United Nations, a journey that includes the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials, the founding of Amnesty International, and the UN resolution of 1975 labeling Zionism as racism. The result is a book that challenges long-held assumptions about the history of human rights and offers a startlingly new perspective on the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.