The Jewish Banker Who Financed the American Revolution

Today (on the Hebrew calendar) is the anniversary of the death of Haym Salomon, a Polish-born American Jew who single-handedly raised most of the funds necessary to back the Continental army. And his devotion to the revolutionary cause did not end there, as Gershon Tannenbaum writes:

Arriving in colonial America in 1772, [Salomon] established himself in New York as a respected and well-liked merchant. . . . Haym enthusiastically joined the Sons of Liberty, a secret organization that had been established by men with business interests who were opposed to British rule. Haym was arrested by the British and charged with spying in September 1776, an offense punishable by hanging. His [linguistic] skills caught the attention of his captors and he was assigned to German General Heister.

As an interpreter for Heister, Salomon was allowed a relatively high degree of freedom. He contributed to the American revolutionary cause by persuading Hessian [mercenaries] to switch sides. . . .

Salomon continued [after his release] to work underground to sway Hessian allegiance, and was jailed a second time in August 1778 as one of several suspects thought to be planning a fire that would destroy the British royal fleet in New York harbor.

Read more at 5 Towns Jewish Times

More about: American Jewry, American Revolution, Finance, George Washington, History & Ideas

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood