Gilad Ben-Nun is a senior research fellow at the Reserach Centre Global Dynamics (ReCentGlobe). He is an expert on the history of international law and teaches at the University of Leipzig. In the winter semester of 2021/21, he held the Israel Institute Visiting Professorship in Israel Studies at LMU Munich. Most recently, he published the monograph The Fourth Geneva Convention for Civilians: The History of International Humanitarian Law (2020).
His article "How Jewish is International Law?", which appeared in the Journal of the History of International Law, has now won the "Spotlight Award" as the Journal's best article for 2021. The journal is published by Brill and ranks #1 in the field.
In his article, Ben-Nun attempts to explain why so many East-Central European Jewish international jurists played such cardinal roles in the elaboration of some of the most important treaties of modern international law post World War II. Ben-Nun examines biographies of Jacob Robinson, Isaac Lewin, Hersch Lauterpacht, Georg Cohn and others who served as key drafters of treaties such as the 4th Geneva Convention for Civilians and the 1951 Refugee Convention. Taking a comparative approach, the paper points to structural similarities between Talmudic law and international law, which help further explain the evident ‘Jewish disproportion’ in the making of many of the international system’s bedrock treaties post World War II.
In the Spotlight Interview 2021 that opens the current issue of JHIL, conducted by Raphael Schäfer and Maren Körsmeier, Gilad Ben-Nun recounts what drew him to his research: "In essence, my journey toward comparing international law with Jewish Talmudic law began some ten years ago when I first uncovered the drafting materials of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the 1954 Convention of Statelessness, and the creation of UNHCR in Israeli, Belgian, and UK state archives, in addition to several private ones. It struck me that so many of these international legal refugee protection instruments were drafted by Holocaust-surviving Jews. Yet, back then, I still thought of this as a ‘one-off case’."