Israel Security Minister And ZOA Criticize PM Olmert’s Use Of Term “Pogrom” To Describe Israeli Actions Against Arabs
December 11, 2008


po·grom (pôgrəm, -gräm‘; pô gräm) noun, an organized persecution and massacre, often officially prompted, of a minority group, esp. of Jews (as in czarist Russia)



Israel’s Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter and the Zionist Organization of America strongly criticize Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s use of the term pogrom to describe the regrettable acts of random violence following the unnecessary and violent eviction of Jews from Beit Hashalom in Hebron.


Beit Hashalom (Peace House) is a building that was legitimately bought, according to the weight of evidence, from its Arab former owner, for almost one million dollars, for the Jewish residents of Hebron. This fact had been confirmed by the seller, though he is now denying it out of fear of Palestinian Authority laws invoking the death penalty for the sale of land to Jews. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Jewish residents may be but are not required to be evicted until the Jerusalem District Court decides on the legal disposition of Beit Hashalom.


In a surprise move on Thursday, December 4th, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered hundreds of heavily armored border police into Beit Hashalom to violently expel the occupants despite ongoing negotiations that day to settle the dispute peacefully.

Following the Israeli Government’s forced and violent expulsion of Jews from Beit Hashalom, a few random acts of vandalism and violence occurred by a handful of Jewish young people, mostly directed against Palestinian Arabs among whom, as the facts unfold, were those who took the opportunity to taunt and throw rocks while dancing on their rooftops and clapping gleefully at the sight of Jews being forcibly removed from their homes.


The ZOA condemns such acts of violence and vandalism, but cautions against impulsive declarations of guilt by heads of state or media until the alleged perpetrator(s) have had their day in court, and only following a full, unbiased investigation of the circumstances and context.


In the most reported case of violence and one cited by PM Olmert, Ze’ev Braude’s firing at Palestinian rock throwers, as it now turns out, may have been an attempt to foil a potential lynching in progress. The specter of a deliberate manipulation of the B’Tzelem video documenting the event has also been raised.


This would not be surprising given the Palestinian record of distorting and even falsifying reality through film, as was the case in the much publicized, fabricated film in connection with the Mohammed Al Dura blood libel, when Israel was falsely accused of deliberately shooting a Palestinian boy in October 2000. Thanks to the efforts of Phillipe Karsenty, and with the help of the ZOA, the facts attesting to Israel’s innocence and the fake murder of Al Dura have been exposed.


As reported by Ynet, an Israeli newspaper, on December 7, Judge Malka Aviv, who had watched the B’Tselem footage of the incident in Hebron, agreed with police that Braude had engaged in a provocation by approaching a Palestinian and “confronting him face to face.”


However, she continued, “there are a number question marks regarding the behavior of the people who were allegedly shot by the suspect; when they are seen getting up (after being shot) and proceeding to pelt the suspect with rocks. Further on in the clip one can also see the ‘evacuation’ of one of the casualties, whose shirt did not show any sign that he had been shot.


“It appears the incident did in fact begin with the suspect’s actions; however, the rest of the incident and its conclusion, including its grave results, cannot, I think, be attributed to the suspect alone. On the contrary, the deliberate conduct of the Palestinians during the incident contributed greatly to its results.”

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported (December 10) that “Judge Malka Aviv criticized police forces for not having arrested the Palestinians documented on the same video hurling stones at him.  The police are bound by the conception that is portrayed in the media, said Aviv… Braude’s lawyer, Attorney Ariel Atari said that the Palestinian claiming to be injured can be viewed in the video getting up after allegedly being shot and continuing to hurl stones and bash Braude.  The Judge added that there are certain questions that remain unresolved regarding the behavior of the Palestinians allegedly shot by Braude as they got up afterwards and continued fighting.” 

PM Olmert claimed at a cabinet meeting barely two days later, “There is no other definition than the term pogrom to describe what I have seen. We are the sons of a nation who know what is meant by a pogrom, and I am using the word only after deep reflection.”

In response, Public Security Minister Dichter said, “We know what a pogrom is,” and added that the Prime Minister’s use of the word was totally unsuitable. “There was no pogrom of Jews on Arabs in Hebron, and anyone who uses the term pogrom plans to degrade [the term]… Hebron is not on fire; there is no Jewish intifada.”

The ZOA questions the degree of “deep reflection” that could take place within less than 48 hours after the alleged incident, especially since all the circumstances have not as yet come to light.

Director of the ZOA’s Israel Office, Jeff Daube said, “I spent a considerable amount of time in Beit Hashalom listening to adult leaders cautioning young people against the use of violence. It’s a shame that a few young people harmed what was largely a peaceful protest against the forced eviction, and certainly the uncalled-for violence by Jews was nothing like the real pogroms, when government-ordered Cossacks were murdering and raping innocent Jewish people, and burning down their villages. That is a pogrom!  Olmert’s use of this term in this situation is not only inaccurate, but ridiculous, and can be used by our enemies to falsely slander the Jewish people.  In fact, headlines in newspapers all over Europe this week stated that the Jews perpetrated a ‘pogrom’ against Arabs.”

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Mr. Olmert has irresponsibly deployed this term. When, in October, residents of the Shomron community of Yitzhar, in response to an Arab terrorist infiltration, the stabbing of a nine year old, and the burning of a Jewish home, may have overreacted with a strong response as they marched through an Arab town, Olmert then also called the Jews’ reaction, during which no one was killed or even seriously hurt, a “pogrom.”

Moreover, Olmert knows well, as a Member of Knesset during the Intifada, about the damage resulting from the many premature and reflexive false accusations at Israel’s expense that are later retracted upon investigation; for example, in connection with the aforementioned Al Dura affair; or Israel’s elimination of the terror hornet’s nest in Jenin in 2002 that was termed a “massacre” by the UN’s Terje Roed-Larsen; or the Gaza beach bomb, that killed six, that Israel was blamed for but turned out to be buried Hamas explosives. 

ZOA National President Morton Klein said, “My own ancestors were subject to actual anti-Semitic pogroms by government sponsored militia in Europe. Prime Minister Olmert’s use of that term degrades the memory of my family members, and the memory of so many others who were senselessly murdered in the name of Jew-hatred.

“I call upon Mr. Olmert to apologize and to refrain from deploying this kind of terminology which, like the term Holocaust, resonates so deeply in the collective Jewish consciousness.”

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