Why Jews Opposed Prohibition, and Why Prohibitionists Became Anti-Semites

In much of Eastern Europe from the 16th century onward, Jews often obtained exclusive rights to distill and sell alcohol, and ran taverns where both Jewish and non-Jewish customers gathered. American Jews’ role in the trade of intoxicating beverages was less pronounced, but hardly negligible. Reviewing Marni Davis’s 2012 book Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition, Allan Arkush writes:

The story Davis tells of [those] Jews who made their fortunes in the alcohol business doesn’t heat up until the temperance movement begins to gain some traction in the second half of the 19th century. Jews then lined up mostly on the side of the “wets,” both because their own religion commanded the use of some alcohol and because they feared the Christianization of the public realm.

American Jews didn’t deny the dangers of alcohol abuse. They just recommended that other people drink moderately and “do as we Israelites do,” as Philadelphia’s Rabbi Marcus Jastrow put it in 1874, a decade before he began to publish his Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Talmud Yerushalmi, and Midrashic Literature, which remains quite helpful today even if his advice to Gentile drinkers may no longer be so.

Neither the stance taken by leading rabbis nor the growing presence of Jews in the alcohol industry provoked the advocates of temperance or the prohibitionists to retaliate. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union “consistently extended themselves to Jewish sisterhoods and avoided anti-Semitic rhetoric,” and the early leadership of the Anti-Saloon League “eschewed direct criticism of Jews.” Things changed, however, with the gradual infiltration of populist anti-Semitism into the prohibitionist movement, especially in the South.

Prohibitionists didn’t win the day, or rather the decade of the 1920s, by targeting them, but once they succeeded in having the National Prohibition Act passed, American Jews found themselves in a rather unique situation, one that may have inspired a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated rabble-rouser to declare that, “My fight right now is against the Homebrew and the Hebrew.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Alcohol, American Jewish History, Anti-Semitism, Ku Klux Klan

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security