Alexander Hamilton’s Anti-Semitic Enemies

Although they were likely unaware of Alexander Hamilton’s childhood connection to Jews and Judaism, the opponents of the first treasury secretary’s policies used the old, ugly stereotypes of Jews’ nefarious relationship with money to tarnish him. Andrew Porwancher writes:

He was repeatedly accused of pursuing policies to enrich Jewish financiers overseas.  When Hamilton’s vision for a Bank of the United States materialized and its stock subscriptions quickly sold out, an editorial in a Philadelphia newspaper . . . fingered “Amsterdam Jews” as among those who were bereft of “honesty or industry” and benefitting from the bank.

Anti-Jewish polemic could also inveigh against Christians for engaging in supposedly Jewish behavior. Before Hamilton took office at the treasury, many speculators had purchased deflated government bonds from veterans of the Revolution at a fraction of their face value. Hamilton was now poised to stimulate American credit and, as a consequence, those bonds would likely skyrocket in price. A newspaper columnist in New York assailed Christian speculators who stood to harvest revenues that would otherwise have gone to soldiers. . . . He analogized them to the notorious character of Shylock from The Merchant of Venice, bristling, “Shakespeare’s Jew, the character of a vigorous imagination, is surpassed in avarice by the real character of these Christians.” . . . This kind of Gentile-on-Gentile antisemitism was not unusual for the era.

Yet Porwancher also places such anti-Semitism in a wider context:

At a time when Jews were second-class citizens in much of Europe and banished from other countries, the U.S. Constitution granted America’s Jewish population a significant measure of civic equality by making them eligible for federal office. Two years after the Constitution’s ratification, George Washington became the first head of a modern state expressly to acknowledge Jews as citizens. And Hamilton’s financial system ultimately did pass into the law despite the fevered opposition. There is much in our early history to raise concerns about the deep roots of American anti-Semitism, yet there is much to give us hope.

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Read more at Marginalia

More about: Alexander Hamilton, American founders, Anti-Semitism

What Israel Can Offer Africa

Last week, the Israeli analyst Yechiel Leiter addressed a group of scholars and diplomats gathered in Addis Ababa to discuss security issues facing the Horn of Africa. Herewith, some excerpts from his speech:

Since the advent of Zionism and the birth of modern Israel, there has been a strong ideological connection between Israel and the African continent. . . . For decades, [however], the notion that the absence of peace in the Middle East was due the absence of Palestinian statehood prevented a full and strategic partnership with African countries. . . . The visits to Africa by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—in 2016 to East Africa and in 2017 to West Africa—reenergized the natural partnership that was initiated by Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1960s.

There is much we share, many places where our interests converge. And I don’t mean another military base in Djibouti. . . . One such area involves the safety of waterways in and around the Red Sea. Curtailing contraband, drugs, arms smuggling, and other forms of serious corruption are all vital for us. . . . But the one critical area of cooperation I’d like to put the spotlight on is in the realm of food security, or rather food insecurity.

Imagine Ethiopia’s cows producing 30 or 40 liters of milk a day instead of the two or three that they produce today. Imagine an exponential rise in (organic) meat exports to Middle Eastern and even European countries, the result of increased processing, storage, and transportation possibilities. Cows today can have a microscopic chip behind their ears that sends messages to the farmer’s computer or mobile phone that tracks what the cow ate, what its temperature is, and what care it might need. Imagine a dramatic expansion of the wheat yield that can make Ethiopia a net exporter of wheat—to Egypt, perhaps in the context of negotiations over the waters of the Nile.

Israel has proven technology in all of these agricultural areas and we’re here; we’re neighbors. We are linked to Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa, in so many ways.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Africa, Ethiopia, Israel diplomacy, Israeli agriculture, Israeli technology