Guest columnist Jonathan Kahane: Haunted by questions with no good answers

Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023. The army is battling Palestinian militants across Gaza in the war ignited by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel.

Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023. The army is battling Palestinian militants across Gaza in the war ignited by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel. AP PHOTO/OHAD ZWIGENBERG

By JONATHAN KAHANE

Published: 12-28-2023 8:03 PM

Last week I ran into a woman I know from town in our local library. I stopped to say hello and to wish her and her family a happy holiday season. At one point during our conversation, she asked me what the subject of my next column in the Gazette would be about. I hesitated for too long a moment and then replied, “I just don’t know. My problem is my mind is consumed with just one issue at the moment, and it overshadows everything else.”

I stammered on, in an effort to explain to her, that I try to include humor and sarcasm in my essays to camouflage the important points I endeavor to get across to the reader. The stumbling block I’m facing this month is that I’m unable to come up with even the trace of a smile regarding this topic — the horror that is going on in the Middle East.

It dominates my thinking day and night. I seem to be unable to transcribe thoughts onto paper. They are too devastating.

How can I write and share these opinions with anyone else in a clear, cohesive, and intelligent manner? That’s the question I’m deliberating at the moment. Perhaps I will be able to answer it by the time I conclude this essay, which incidentally represents my third attempt.

Below are just a few of the other questions I’m dealing with.

How can I convey how awful and blind it is for people to blame Israel for trying to retaliate for the murder, torture, rape, and destruction inflicted upon her innocent civilians and country?

How can I adequately describe the feelings of these victims as they were forced to observe armed Hamas militants commit these atrocities?

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How can I accept the reasoning that the attempt by Israel to completely eradicate this cancer must stop?

In medicine, we try to entirely destroy a cancer for fear that it could return. Jews have been fighting this plague for decades, centuries, millennia and remain vulnerable to the danger of being surrounded by countries that are hell-bent on wanting to see Israel and its population die — its Jewish population, that is. That’s not to mention other countries around the world with the same idea.

The Jews of Europe were ridiculed in the 1930s and 1940s for being passive and for not defending themselves. Yet now, as they aggressively try to combat the latest plague, they are being ridiculed for trying to combat the current “disease” called Hamas.

How do I reconcile the words of the “saints” among us who preach that the violence on both sides must stop when I think how they would have reacted had they been forced to watch their mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters experience what Jewish families experienced at their breakfast tables on Oct. 7?

How does one condone America dropping two atomic bombs on Japanese cities in order to save more American (and Japanese) lives in the long run but condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza?

How can I comprehend the blame being put on the victims of this ongoing tragedy?

How can I come to a fair and adequate understanding of the deafening silence that is being displayed by many (not all) houses of worship of varying persuasions and denominations who so quickly picked up the cause for Ukraine but seem to be advocating to “turn the other cheek” with regard to Hamas?

I believe it’s important for me to add that Israel is not blameless in this tragedy. War is complicated and highly charged, and combatants don’t think rationally. I recognize that being Palestinian is not synonymous with being a Hamas terrorist. Innocents are being slaughtered, on both sides, and this raises yet another question. Why is it during all these years of strife, that groups of Palestinians unsympathetic to Hamas terror have not participated in protests, rallies, or demonstrations, against them as we have witnessed large rallies by Jews against the Netanyahu government?

We have witnessed huge demonstrations against the Vietnam War in this country. We have even seen protests against the communist governments in China and Russia. Is there a tacit acceptance of Hamas by the Palestinian population in Gaza?

I regret to say that I don’t have an answer to any of the above questions.

To conclude with regard to the first question I posed: How can I write about this topic in a clear, cohesive, and intelligent manner? I obviously can’t.

Jonathan Kahane lives in Westhampton.