Sunday, January 14, 2024

Am I a Bad Jew for Having Doubts?

Am I a bad Jew? Am I bad because I do not spend virtually every waking hour monitoring news on TV, cable, the Internet, or reading newspapers and magazines devoting countless column inches to stories on the Israel-Gaza war? 

I have friends and acquaintances who are obsessed with being in the news loop. Obsessed, not in a derogatory way. Just more engrossed than I. Not more dedicated to Israel’s survival. Just more all-consumed than I allow myself to be. Maybe I’m just more optimistic that in the end all will work out. For the better. As it has in the past. 

During my first trip to Israel in 1966, when I was 17, I was impressed by the devotion Israelis had to the news. Riding on an Egged bus everyone would stifle any noise when the hourly chimes rang on the bus’ radio and the news began. I shortly learned it was not just news they were listening to. The radio broadcast in code military call-ups for reservists. A perceptible exhale could be heard when the news concluded. 

A year later, June 1967, with my sister in Israel packing crackers for the military, I could not stay away from radio reports, especially when early communiques came from Egyptian media proclaiming a successful drive up the Mediterranean coast toward Tel Aviv. When the truth surfaced, euphoria and relief energized my listening and viewing time.

For years since then, whenever in my car or at home, I made a point of tuning the radio to an all news AM station at the start of each hour, anxiety stoking my act, fearful of news of another Mideast war that could presage Israel’s destruction.

Fast forward through the Yom Kippur War, wars in Lebanon, actions in Gaza and the West Bank. Through years of Israel’s invincibility I became inured to its vulnerability. October 7 changed the canvas.

This war is different from all others. It is being fought by an army with a strict military code of honor against a terrorist organization with no scruples, no shame, no restraint on inflicting casualties on civilians including its own people, the very people it purports to be representing and protecting. Indeed, those very ordinary Palestinians now subjected to intense bombing and shelling reveled in the murder of Jews young and old and in the destruction of settlements that employed thousands of Gazans and whose residents were among the most liberal favoring peace with Gaza.

Am I a bad Jew because I see humanity destroyed on both sides of the battle? 

In any war, any armed confrontation, accidents, unintentional casualties, may occur. No weapon is 100% precise. No one who pulls the trigger or releases a rocket or bomb is infallible. 

The morality of a regime and its armed forces is on display in the manner in which they address mistakes. A breakout blurb under a headline in last Tuesday’s front page New York Times provided stark counterpoint between a democracy with Western liberal values and a regressive, repressive, oppressive regime waging a war: 

“Israel says an episode that killed dozens is under review,” it said. 

Hamas, on the other hand, and its Muslim state and terrorist supporters, have applauded the barbaric atrocities of October 7. No regrets. 

Today, Sunday January 14, marks 100 days since the assault and the abduction of near 250 hostages. More than half remain hidden in Gaza. The release of all the hostages is but one of Israel’s objectives. The others include finding and killing Hamas leaders and destroying its ability to threaten Israel again. 

Am I a bad Jew because I never thought it was possible that any of the hostages would be returned alive? 

Let’s be honest. Destroying Hamas was never a realistic goal. Dismantling its ability to launch rocket attacks on Israel, yes, that was possible, though even after seven weeks of intense bombing and on the ground action, missiles still rain down from Gaza.


To anyone with even just a speck of humanity in their heart and soul the loss of life and devastation in Gaza must be excruciating. It is no exaggeration to say thousands of innocents have been killed by Israel’s justified response to the inhumane attack.   

The destruction of an evil force to no one’s surprise requires extraordinary action. Eight decades later we still debate the morality and efficacy of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We ponder the fire bombing of Tokyo that killed more people than either atomic bombing did. The destruction of Dresden is hardly criticized. 

The collateral damage inside Gaza could not easily be avoided given the vast underground tunnel network Hamas built with funds and supplies that could have, that should have, been used to make living in Gaza more tolerable. 

Can Gaza be rebuilt? Look to history for an answer. From the destruction of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan modern economies emerged with democratic values. It required the population to jettison past beliefs and the acceptance of new philosophies. 

All those who opine Israel should cease military operations have yet to advance a plausible scenario in which Hamas renounces its charter to destroy Israel and kill Jews. Until those bent on Israel’s destruction are silenced, rehabilitated, eliminated, no amount of external and internal pressure can be expected to stop Israel’s mission of revenge and liberation. 

Am I a bad Jew for voicing my doubts?