Merriam-Webster defines “pogrom” as “an organized massacre of helpless people – specifically such a massacre of Jews.”

According to theOxford English Dictionary, OED), the word pogrom entered English from Yiddish which borrowed it from Russian. The OED gives two meanings for the word:

In Russia, Poland, and some other East European countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: an organized massacre aimed at the destruction or annihilation of a body or class of people, esp. one conducted against Jewish people.


An organized, officially tolerated, attack on any community or group.

Note that the Merriam-Webster refers to the victims being “helpless” and that might also refer, in contemporary analysis to a lack of power. Both definitions refer to the massacre being “organized”. The latter also adds that is an “officially tolerated” attack.

A pogrom then is somewhat different than a riot. For example, riots in large American cities by supporters of Black Lives Matter and Antifa, generally targeted government buildings and businesses, rather than ethnic or racial minorities. But these riots were quite successful as the rioters, particularly BLM, achieved financial and moral support that empowered Blacks vis-a-vis educational curricula and Critical Race Theory now embedded - although facing a backlash - in government, schools, and corporations.

But the riots themselves and violence as a tactic have been adopted by groups who decide to do pogroms targeting Jews, especially the haredi Jews who are readily recognized by their dress. So, we are in an era where both riots and pogroms are becoming more common. And based on the non-reaction of the Democrats in the U.S. and the law enforcement officers, the message of the utility of riots spread around the world. As long as the violence is against individuals or small groups of Jews as opposed to attacking the Jewish state and IDF, then these count as pogroms.

In the U.S. in the last year, there have been increasing numbers of attacks against Jewish owned businesses and synagogues and individual Orthodox Jews walking to or from synagogue. In Europe, there have been many attacks especially in France, where a Jewish school was violated with murder and older Orthodox women were murdered in their homes. France and Sweden show us that the more Islamists populate a country, the more murders are committed against Jew - and others also.

In Canada, in large cities like Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Halifax, there have recently been “protest” demonstrations against Israel for defending itself against Hamas missiles and some of these turned violent. In Toronto, Palestinian Arabs and their supporters have taken to organizing large protests in Jewish neighbourhoods, which seem to aim for violent confrontations.

It is one thing to have a protest at City Hall, and another to have a protest in a Jewish residential neighbourhood.Typically these protests have Jews outnumbered by about 20 to 1, probably because Jews fear violence at the hands of those more comfortable with street-fighting. They are not quite pogroms because there is little in the way of guns. However, there is evidence of police officers refusing to aid Jewish victims and instead saying that they are only in attendance to separate the parties and that they lack the manpower to really keep the peace; query whether this attitude amounts to tolerance of criminality.

Significant pogroms in the Russian Empire included the Odessa pogroms, Warsaw pogrom (1881), Kishinev pogrom (1903), Kiev Pogrom (1905), and Białystok pogrom (1906). After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, several pogroms occurred amid the power struggles in Eastern Europe, including the Lwów pogrom (1918) and Kiev Pogroms (1919).

Of course the most significant pogrom in Nazi Germany was the Kristallnacht of 1938. At least 91 Jews were killed, a further thirty thousand arrested and subsequently incarcerated in concentration camps, a thousand synagogues burned, and over seven thousand Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged. Notorious pogroms of World War II included the 1941 Farhud in Iraq, the July 1941 Iași pogrom in Romania – in which over 13,200 Jews were killed – as well as the Jedwabne pogrom in German-occupied Poland.

Post-World War II pogroms included the1945 Tripoli pogrom, the 1946 Kielce pogrom and the 1947 Aleppo pogrom.

In the period before the declaration of the State of Israel, the Jews were targeted in the 1929 Hebron massacre and the 1929 Safed pogrom.

We now turn to the question of whether the recent disturbances and violence in Jerusalem and other “mixed” cities like Lod, Acco, and Yaffo, amount to a return of pogroms to the Jewish people, even though we now have our own state and well-trained and equipped military. But a military cannot stop the knifing of a Jewish resident by his neighbor. If Jews, who were generally of the opinion that Arab Israelis were enjoying their democratic rights, becoming more satisfied and integrated with life in Israel, now see their neighbours joining a pogrom or a lynching, Israel has yet another difficult security problem.

A number of Israeli writers have addressed this. Victor Rosenthal, who writes under the name Abu Yehudah,writes: in a piece entitled “Israel is stuck:"

“Why do I think coexistence is impossible? Because – as has been demonstrated conclusively in the last few weeks – the combination of the nature of Arab culture, combined with the all-pervasive Palestinian narrative, the well-organized and financed anti-Zionist forces, and the effective use of media, especially social media, make it so.

“Let me make it clear at the outset that I am talking about all of the Land of Israel, by which I mean all the land between the river and the sea, from the Golan to the border with Egypt. My argument is that if coexistence between Arabs and Jews is failing within the boundaries of pre-1967 Israel, then a fortiori(or kal v’homer) it cannot succeed within the larger boundaries of all the Land of Israel.”

“The narrative says that the Jews have stolen the land from the Arabs, and the state is illegitimate... It postulates a ‘Palestinian people’ that goes back centuries in the land. That is a fiction...

“In Arab culture, personal, family, tribal, and now national, honor has a very high priority. The restoration of lost honor justifies violence – indeed, if the loss was violent, the response must be also. Loyalty to the group and perseverance in search of justice are important values. Accounts must be settled, and in the ledgers of the Palestinian Arabs, much is owed to them by the Jews.” That, too, if fiction.

Rosenthal says that Meir Kahane “was right about one thing: in order for the Jewish state to continue to exist, it cannot continue to have a large Arab minority. I am certain that many Israelis agree in their hearts, but are afraid to express agreement from fear of being called “racist” or worse. But race has nothing to do with what is at bottom a national conflict, and indeed it is a profoundly unhelpful concept.”

Martin Sherman is another prolific writer grappling with the lesson of the Arab Israeli pogroms. He writes in his essay, “Et tu, Ahmad: The illusion of Arab loyalty”:

"Violent Israeli Arab “display(s) of alienation—indeed, aversion—to their own state is not confined to select elites within Arab-Israeli society. Indeed, when Arab Israelis perpetrated lethal acts of terror, they were feted as heroes by their kinfolk, who collaborated in hiding them from Israeli authorities. When two of them were eventually located and killed, they were given huge funerals, where they were enthusiastically eulogized by approving mass processions—and lauded as martyrs for Al-Aqsa for gunning down two Israeli policemen (from the Druze community) at the Temple Mount.

‘The unavoidable conclusion from this dismal record is that Israel has been enormously—and ill-advisedly—tolerant its Arab citizens, allowing blatant and barefaced displays not only of disloyalty but of equally brazen identification with Israel’s enemies—even in times of ongoing hostilities.

‘Seen in this context, the current revolt is clearly aimed at changing the very essence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, annulling the very foundation for its establishment and transforming the rationale for its continued existence.

‘Accordingly, the situation can no longer be seen as one centering on the question of individual rights, but of collective survival—and it must be treated as such.”

Caroline Glick in her recent piece, “Facing the real cause of the long Arab war” says that after 75 years of making excuses and denying the plain fact that anti-Semitism or Jew-hatred is the root and the branch of the Arab conflict with Israel, Israelis of all walks of life and across the political spectrum need, in light of the recent Arab-Israeli pogroms, to accept that it is true that the root cause of the War is Jew-hatred.."

Says Glick: “The Palestinian war, now joined by Israel’s Arabs and supported by the ruling party in America, presents Zionism with its supreme test: Will Israel protect its Jewish national identity, or will it crumble under pressure?"

“Israel must do two things to persevere. First, it must quell the Arab-Israeli violence and confiscate all illegal weapons now in the hands of the Arabs.

“More fundamentally, after 75 years of making excuses and denying the plain fact that anti-Semitism is the root and the branch of the Arab conflict with Israel, Israelis of all walks of life and across the political spectrum need to accept this truth. As a society, we must demand that Israel’s Arab citizens and their leaders recognize the legitimacy and justice of the existence of the State of Israel. And we must not accept no for an answer any more."

In my book, The Ideological Path to Submission... and what we can do about it (Mantua Books), I agree with the approach of Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum to distinguish between Muslims who can adjust to lives of freedom, responsibility, women’s rights, rights of other religions including Judaism and non-violence, and other Muslims, usually called Islamists who seek Jihad, conquest, a world-wide Caliphate, forced conversions, Sharia Law and violence. My book deals mainly with Islam in America, Canada and Europe, but I hold the same distinctions must apply to Islamic Israelis.

The only Muslims that should live in Israel are those non-Islamists who accept the virtue of the Jews, the Torah and that the Qur’an says that the land of Israel is for the Jews.

Sometimes it takes a few pogroms to drive home the problem and the solution alike.

The Russian and Ukrainian pogroms in the early 19th century were the determining factor for Russian Jews to depart Russia and the Ukraine for America. A lot of Jews paid with their lives so that others would understand that the time had come to leave.

My father’s cousin, upon liberation from Auschwitz, decided to go back home to Lodz Poland. He and others were met with a violent pogrom from the Poles who did not want the Jews back. After a few years, he and his new wife made Aliyah.

Pogroms against Jews in contemporary Europe and the danger that riots in America might turn into pogroms will induce Diaspora Jews to make Aliyah. But they must see an Israel that understands that Arab Israelis must not only be cleansed of guns and other weapons, but must clearly support reformist Islam and not Islamism. At a time when Muslims up 20% of Israel’s population, it is essential to adopt this paradigm about Muslim neighbours and co-workers.

The mini-pogroms that started a couple of weeks ago must make it clear to both antisemites and Jews everywhere that the best thing for all concerned is a division between modernist more liberal Islam and the Islamists, and only the former should populate Israel, and perhaps the rest of the West. Those who follow radical hegemonic Islamism might stay in one of the numerous Islamic theocracies.

Sometimes it takes a few pogroms.

Howard Rotberg is a Canadian Jew and Zionist, author of four books about ideologies, values and political culture. He is the founding president of publisher Mantua Books, Canada’s sole Torah values and pro-Israel publishing house.