The History of Jews in the Liquor Trade

In North America, the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Europe, Jews played an outsized role in the production and sale of alcohol in the 17th through 19th centuries. Joel Haber writes:

While many [Polish] Jews turned to trading and peddling, the lords saw a different opportunity. Jews were considered good with business . . . and would be unlikely to drink up the product. So, under a leasing system known in Polish as propinacja, [individual] Jews were granted exclusive rights to run the alcohol industries [on individual estates]. By the middle of the 19th century, approximately 85 percent of all Polish taverns had Jewish management. Jews similarly dominated the industry in the [Russian] Pale of Settlement, . . . though on a slightly lesser scale. Jewish participation in the alcohol business was so prevalent that . . . between 30 and 40 percent of Poland’s Jews (including women and children) worked in the industry.

Simultaneously, back in Ottoman Palestine, wine production was returning for the first time in hundreds of years. Though ancient Israel was well-known as a wine-producing region, hundreds of years of rule by Muslims (for whom alcohol is forbidden) turned the industry into little more than a memory. But when more Jews began immigrating and joining the small community that was already living there, viticulture gradually returned.

Jews rapidly left the business toward the [19th] century’s end, thanks to both increased competition and government oppression, leaving this chapter in our history largely forgotten.

Read more at My Jewish Learning

More about: Alcohol, Jewish history, Ottoman Empire, Polish Jewry


To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy