The 19th Century’s Most Consequential Jewish Philanthropist, and the Gentiles Who Hated Him

The grandson of a Jewish financier who, against considerable odds, had been made baron by the king of Bavaria, Maurice de Hirsch would become one of the wealthiest men in Europe and perhaps the most significant Jewish philanthropist of the 19th century. In 1869, he set about building the Ottoman empire’s first railroad network, connecting it to the rest of Europe. Abigail Green reviews a new biography of Hirsch by Matthias Lehmann:

As a Jew who had inherited noble pretensions, young Maurice was caught between two worlds. His observant uncle may have been treated to a kosher banquet by King Ludwig I of Bavaria in the royal palace of Aschaffenburg, but the 1813 [law restricting Jewish rights] still limited the family’s personal and professional options, so Maurice’s parents sent him abroad to be educated. They chose Belgium, a rapidly industrializing state born out of liberal revolution and epitomizing political and economic promise. It was also a place where German Jewish banking families could be less dependent on princely favor. . . .

In 1878, Hirsch moved his company’s headquarters from Paris to Vienna. Here no one saw Hirsch as a legitimate agent of Austrian interests; he appeared instead a typically self-seeking Jew. . . . In other countries, they pushed different narratives. For the pan-German activist Paul Dehn, Hirsch represented a “ruthless, predatory, usurious capitalism,” which had betrayed German central Europe. In short, he was Jewish. In France, meanwhile, the socialist anti-Semitic publicist August Chirac did not fail to blame “a Jew called Baron de Hirsch”—tellingly (but wrongly) described as “a Prussian”—for “the constant troubles in the Balkans” that were “enriching the Jews” but causing suffering for the area’s Christian population. . . .

Hirsch’s underlying attitude toward Judaism set him apart from . . . other 19th-century Jewish leaders. Moses Montefiore was a pious Jew and a lover of Zion, while Adolphe Crémieux was a secularist and French nationalist who believed in the Jews’ monotheistic mission to humanity. Hirsch, for his part, was utterly detached from Judaism and never donated anything to Jewish religious institutions or synagogues. One of his personal secretaries summed the situation up well when he quoted him saying, “‘Let others take care of the soul, if they are so inclined, but I will occupy myself with the body.’” . . . And yet at the same time, Maurice clearly felt distinctly Jewish.

And it was to Jewish causes that Hirsch would give millions of francs.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Ottoman Empire, Philanthropy

Would an American-Backed UN Resolution Calling for a Temporary Ceasefire Undermine Israel?

Yesterday morning, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by Algeria, that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. As an alternative, the American delegation has been circulating a draft resolution calling for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” Benny Avni comments:

While the Israel Defense Force may be able to maintain its Gaza operations under that provision, the U.S.-proposed resolution also warns the military against proceeding with its plan to enter the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Israel says that a critical number of Hamas fighters are hiding inside tunnels and in civilian buildings at Rafah, surrounded by a number of the remaining 134 hostages.

In one paragraph, the text of the new American resolution says that the council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

In addition to the paragraph about Rafah, the American-proposed resolution is admonishing Israel not to create a buffer zone inside Gaza. Such a narrow zone, as wide as two miles, is seen by many Israelis as a future protection against infiltration from Gaza.

Perhaps, as Robert Satloff argues, the resolution isn’t intended to forestall an IDF operation in Rafah, but only—consistent with prior statements from the Biden administration—to demand that Israel come up with a plan to move civilians out of harms way before advancing on the city.

If that is so, the resolution wouldn’t change much if passed. But why is the U.S. proposing an alternative ceasefire resolution at all? Strategically, Washington has nothing to gain from stopping Israel, its ally, from achieving a complete victory over Hamas. Why not instead pass a resolution condemning Hamas (something the Security Council has not done), calling for the release of hostages, and demanding that Qatar and Iran stop providing the group with arms and funds? Better yet, demand that these two countries—along with Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon—arrest Hamas leaders on their territory.

Surely Russia would veto such a resolution, but still, why not go on the offensive, rather than trying to come up with another UN resolution aimed at restraining Israel?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship, United Nations