Did William the Conqueror Have a Jewish Mother?

It is known that the Norman king was the illegitimate son of the previous duke of Normandy and a woman name Herleva, whose father was a tanner. Joshua Gelernter examines some circumstantial evidence that she might have been Jewish:

According to the 19th-century historian Edward Freeman, William the Conqueror, who was also known as William the Bastard, was sometimes known as “William the Mamzer.” This is where things get interesting. Mamzer is a Hebrew pejorative meaning the child of an illegitimate sexual relationship, such as adultery or incest. In Europe, it may have entered the vernacular as a pejorative for the offspring of a particular type of illegitimate relationship—one between a Christian man and a Jewish woman. . . . [Furthermore], in medieval Europe, tanners were frequently Jews. . . .

We know that in the 11th century Normandy was home to a large number of Jews. By some estimates, its capital Rouen began that century with a population that was one-fifth Jewish. And we know that William was relatively fond of the Jews: after his Conquest, he suggested Normandy’s children of Israel resettle in England—a surprising invitation, even for someone interested in developing trade and finance. . . .

Does any of this prove that England as we know it was founded by a Jew? Of course not. But it’s something to chew on.

Read more at Standpoint

More about: England, French Jewry, History & Ideas, Intermarriage, Middle Ages

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict