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Charles Adler

Charles Adler: Two Wrongs, No Rights

by Charles Adler, posted here April 14,2024

This is a column I never wanted to write. For those familiar with my heritage, you know why every paragraph is wretchedly painful. If you don’t know me, the explanation is coming.

What’s most important on this day, is not my personal pain. It pales in comparison to what is experienced by the families in Israel connected to the thousands of men, women and children who were raped, beaten, burned, knifed, shot and kidnapped by the epitome of evil — Hamas.

What’s equally important is the pain inflicted on Palestinian families by the inevitable response to Oct. 7. The unimaginable sorrow is not mitigated by the fact Hamas lit this rocket. When it comes to urban warfare, innocents always exponentially outnumber the guilty.

Collateral damage is a deeply unsatisfactory clinical term. When a parent sees a child turned into a corpse, there is no explanation connected to Oct. 7 that suspends the anguish. When a parent is unable to feed their child because there is no food, and no safe path to finding any, there is no language to soften the suffering.

I am a child of parents who suffered every indignity imaginable in the Second World War. I am a son of Holocaust survivors, an eyewitness to all the consequences of survivors’ guilt and shame. Both my parents would have traded their lives for those they lost to Adolf Hitler’s “final solution” to the “Jewish Question.”

I have been rewarded with the attention of millions of Canadians and Americans over half a century for telling stories that vividly animate the human condition.

But I am at loss for words to adequately describe the pain of listening to testimony about the events of Oct. 7. There is no video available to illustrate the worst of it, Hamas assassins torturing and murdering Israeli children in front of their parents and doing the same to parents in front of their children. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe my personal pain, watching Palestinian children emaciated by hunger, manufactured by warfare. And I have no adequate words to describe my revulsion over the post-Oct. 7 hurricane of antisemitism worldwide. My world includes the Adler family’s promised land, Canada.

It was in 1960s Canada when I first read Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. I wasn’t old enough for high school. But desperation ignores age.

I needed to know why my parents were so different from those of my classmates.

I needed to know what made them suffer the panic attacks and dramatic mood swings of post-Holocaust trauma.

I needed to know why Jews incurred so much resentment, wrath, and ultimately, genocidal hatred.

I could tell you that what impacted them only affected my curiosity. But my recurring nightmares put a lie to that. On history’s calendar, the Second World War ended nearly 79 years ago. In my sleep-disordered mind, the war never ended and never will.

In my dreams, the furnaces at Auschwitz that consumed my paternal grandmother and grandfather, uncles, aunts and cousins, are never turned off. When I awaken, I am shaken by the knowledge that many in this world, some of whom are reading these words, want the ovens turned back on.

They reject “Never Again.” They crave “Again and Again.”

Nobody taught the lessons of the Holocaust like the late Nobel laureate, Elie Wiesel.

He was raised in a Romanian town not far from where my father was born in nearby Hungary. He survived the same concentration camp where his family and my father’s were incinerated.

The words in his 57 books have been helpful to my understanding of the traumatized mind.

I can only imagine what he might say to the prime minister of Israel about human deprivation in Gaza: “Bibi, these children have the right to be fed. The Jewish State that rose from the ashes of Auschwitz has no right to allow them to starve. Hitler and Hamas stain humanity. But they do not grant their victims a licence for inhumanity.”

I have three personal requests to make of this world. Please ensure that Hamas never governs an inch of territory anywhere, that the Oct. 7 hostages, alive and dead, be released, and that the children of Gaza receive nourishment.

It is not their fault that some of their kin murdered mine. 

Charles Adler is a longtime political commenter and podcaster.This article first appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press and is being reprinted here with permission.

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