Jean Pierre Braun

The Pogrom of Simhat Torah

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Albert Camus once said: “To misname things adds to the misfortunes of the world”

‘Hamas unbelievably cruel attack on Simhat Torah cannot be called an “operation,” nor an “incursion” or a “revolt.” None of these terms can even remotely convey the magnitude of what has happened and continues to unfold. Nor can these terms describe the intents of the invaders, their desire to harm in the most extreme way, and their horrifying inhuman behavior towards victims and hostages.

Then is this a war? Not really, a war is a confrontation between organized entities, sometimes legal, sometimes attached to specific nations, with defined objectives and means to achieve them. Battles take place between armies, formal or not, civilian casualties are often viewed as collateral losses. Except for the so-called “wars or religion” and the Second World War.

My firm belief is that this ‘Hamas attack is a POGROM in the strictest sense of the word.

Pogroms were originally attacks on religious groups, Jewish or otherwise. However, in recent centuries, the term pogrom has been exclusively (what a privilege!) reserved for attacks on Jewish communities.

What characterizes a pogrom? (1) it is an anti-Semitic attack directed against Jews, (2) it is an attack on civilian populations, men, women, children, the elderly, (3) it is an attack aimed at dehumanizing Jews as individuals and as members of the community, (4) it is an attack without limit in terms of cruelty towards the victims:  violence, abuse, rape, massacre, summary executions. The vocabulary of anti-Semitic cruelty knows no bounds, (5) violence is almost systematically accompanied by theft, looting and spoliation of the belongings of victimized Jewish populations, (6) beyond violence, one of the goals of the pogrom is to get rid of the Jews, to expel them, or to send them into yet another exile. The pogroms that are anchored in our collective memory, unfortunately, took place in Warsaw in 1881, Kishinev in 1903, Kiev in 1905 and 1919, etc. By the same definition, the Crystal Night conducted by the Nazis in Germany in 1938 was one of the largest pogroms of the modern era and a prelude to the Holocaust. Pogroms were not limited to the Ashkenazi world. We also remember the pogroms of 1941 in Farhud in Iraq, Tripoli in 1945 and Aleppo in 1947, among others.

OK, it is a pogrom, so what?

It is obvious that the six attributes of the pogrom listed above are present, without exception, in the Sim’hat Torah disaster of October 7, 2023.

This classification attempt is not just a gratuitous exercise, a kind of inconsequential intellectual gymnastics: having unambiguously defined this ‘Hamas attack as a pogrom allows us to draw the following conclusions:

  • Apart from the alleged failure of the Israeli intelligence services, this has very little in common with the Yom Kippur War.
  • On the other hand, it is reminiscent of the heinous massacres that took place in the pogroms mentioned above. The morbid intentions of the ‘Hamas terrorists are virtually identical to those of the Russian, Ukrainian, Nazi, and Arab militias we have just mentioned.
  • These militias and terrorists are motivated by deep, primal, atavistic anti-Semitism. The Jew has no dignity for them. They do not see him as human. Jewish life is of little value. Civilians and soldiers, women, children, and the elderly can be raped and massacred without limit. There are many videos circulating on the web for everyone to see, that attest to all that I have just said. These are unbearable videos. No civilized person can look at them without crying uncontrollably.
  • How can one talk, negotiate, or reason with such savages? And even if we tried to do it, how can we ever trust them? This is clearly impossible.
  • So, what are our options? For the unarmed, weak, and defenseless Jewish populations of the past centuries in Europe and the Arab Land, often the only solution was exile. For us here and now, in Israel, exile is no longer an option: אין לנו מדינה אחרת, we have no other country. But at the same time, we are no longer the weak and frightened Jewish population of centuries past. We are Israel, we have Tzahal, we have proven throughout our short history our resilience and our ability to defend our only country. We can do much better than just defend ourselves.

Going Forward

There is no point in considering these terrorists as interlocutors or negotiation partners as if they were legitimate entities. They are enemies to whom we will never offer a country, or even a territory, to govern. No one-, two-, or three-state solution can ever work. These savages deserve none of this. Like the hordes of Chmielnicki, like the Nazis of the 3rd Reich, they deserve only one thing: to be hunted down, eliminated, destroyed.

Israel has been sorely mistaken in recent years in considering that a policy of appeasement vis-à-vis ‘Hamas could lead to peaceful coexistence, perhaps even peace. As a result, Israel has helped ‘Hamas forge for themselves an undeserved respectability. Not understanding that we were dealing with an organization of inhuman and cruel savages, we gave them the opportunity to grow, to enrich themselves, to arm themselves to the teeth and to further elaborate their deadly plans. Their goals have never changed, their charter has never been amended: all they ever wanted and still want is the disappearance of Israel and the expulsion of all jews from what they see as Arab land, from the river to the sea. We seem to have forgotten this message, we certainly have not taken it seriously, ‘Hamas has. We are seeing today the consequences of years of misguided judgement. Our 800 dead Z’L and 2200 wounded are reminding us of the magnitude of our mistake.

One of the worst humanitarian crimes ‘Hamas has committed during this Sim’hat Torah pogrom is the taking of well over a hundred hostages into Gaza. Soldiers and civilians, babies, very young children, women, men and elderlies. There is no greater crime. The laws of Pidyon Shvuyim (פִּדְיוֹן שְׁבוּיִים) are deeply rooted in Jewish history. They are part of our DNA. It is our religious obligation and our moral responsibility to do everything we can, with no limit whatsoever (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah) to secure the safe release of all these hostages. They are all our brothers and sisters, children, and parents.

We owe it to all our martyrs, to their grieving families, to the many hostages and to each of us Jewish citizens of Israel, to retaliate without mercy or remorse and certainly without any hesitation or weakness to eradicate ‘Hamas and all its terrorists from the face of the earth once and for all.

May G.d help us.

About the Author
Jean Pierre Braun is a retired Silicon Valley CEO now living in Jerusalem. Born in Paris, Jean Pierre immigrated to the USA after completing its Electrical Engineering degree in France. Besides being a serial entrepreneur, Jean Pierre was also the founder of a unique, very successful Silicon Valley Synagogue, and upon his return to France became Vice President of a local CRIF branch, and the President of the Rachi community in Grenoble. A father of 3 and grandfather of 10 ב'ה, Jean Pierre and his wife Annie made Aliyah in 2016.
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