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Samuel Pallache: The Great Jewish Pirate Who Took on the Spanish Fleet

March 19 2018

Born in Morocco in 1550 to Jewish refugees from Spain, Samuel Pallache, after completing his rabbinic training, embarked on an alternative career as a sailor—but soon he and his brother found they could better enrich themselves as pirates. Pallache’s activities eventually attracted the attention of the Moroccan sultan, who led him onto an even more improbable path, as Ushi Derman writes:

The sultan, who wished to strengthen links with Netherlands, appointed Pallache ambassador to the newly formed Dutch Republic. Apart from his prestige as a famous mariner, Pallache also spoke many languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and French, which made him a precious diplomatic asset for the sultan.

Thus, in 1596 Pallache . . . settled in the Hague. . . . He founded one of the first informal Jewish congregations in the city, and also served as rabbi of the Jewish community. His comfortable diplomatic routine was interrupted when, at the end of the 16th century, the treasure-loving sultan ordered him to sail to Lisbon, [then part of Spain], and purchase gems in exchange for loads of wax. . . . Pallache, who was in financial trouble, offered to sell the Spaniards some inside information from the sultan’s court. The Inquisition’s authorities suspected that the rabbi was trying to bring converts back to Judaism, so they followed him; he managed to escape just in time.

Bankrupted and entangled, he sailed right back to Holland and upon his return used his contacts in order to meet with Maurice, the son of William the Silent, the founder and ruler of the Dutch Republic. Pallache offered Maurice a chance to cooperate with Morocco against their shared enemy—Spain. The prince . . . despised the Spanish as much as Pallache did, so he came up with a brilliant idea. As the Netherlands and Spain had signed a peace treaty, he suggested establishing a group of pirates made up of vagrants, adventurers, and sailors to harass Spanish shipping under Moroccan cover. Pallache, who hated the Spaniards for deporting his ancestors, was eager for a chance to get even.

Read more at Museum of the Jewish People

More about: History & Ideas, Morocco, Netherlands, Piracy, Sephardim, Spanish Inquisition

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy