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Leftists Speak Out
Jewish law
 An albino in G-d's* Garden
and a 12 pack of beer

Or why a Finnish/Swedish Bahai raised by Lutherans
is writing about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

by Becky Johnson
February 1, 2003
Santa Cruz, Ca. -- I see myself as a liberal and a socialist.  I recognize that the United States is a capitalistic representative democracy, and unlikely to nationalize major industries anytime soon.  So my role, is to remind the bureaucrats and the business leaders, and the rich and powerful that they have a responsibility to see than no one gets left behind in the great leap forward. Jewish values are key here.  Remember all those stories about not harvesting the field in the corners?  Leaving enough behind for the gleaners?  Jewish law teaches that we are our brother's keeper.  Christianity, Islam, and the Bahai faith all spring from the Torah and the Talmud. That means, the whole world over, that we should be able to house the homeless.  My rabbi told me, "They say the poor we shall always have with us, but they don't say the homeless. There's no excuse for homelessness."
As a Bahai, I believe in the unity of all people of the earth.  Bahais teach that we are all flowers in G-d's garden. And that the garden is just so much more beautiful with all the different kinds of flowers than if there were only one variety.  I must be a Finnish/Swedish albino flower then. But I digress.  I believe that each one of us is valuable and unique, and that the world needs every one of us.
All this is a prelude so I can attempt to explain why I presume to write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I am not Jewish. I am not an Arab.  I am not Muslim.  I have never even been to Israel. (And as such, I am a sponge ready to hear from any of you readers who have so much more knowledge and experience to offer. ) All I can offer you, in a way of explanation, is that I have always been uncomfortable if I was witness to or aware of an injustice occurring.  If a man or beast was being treated badly or hurt, I would leap to his rescue. Doesn't everyone feel this way?
I believe a deep injustice is occurring before my eyes on a daily basis. And just as I have done all my life, I feel compelled to act. I see a disturbing phenomenon of a growing mass of people, being misled, lied to, and pulled into compliance with this dangerous injustice. People I know, love, and admire, who share my same values --- of freedom, human rights, compassion, and a dedication to relieve human suffering where it occurs are being misled into actually helping those who embody what they hate the most.
Who would say "the suicide bombers are horrific, but you have to understand the desperation that causes it." 
Understand the "but"?   "But" means that there is a rational explanation.  Perhaps the suicide bomber lives in a roach filled hovel, eating dirt and bugs for food, and watching his sisters and brothers starve to death.  It kind of starts to sound a little heroic.  The teenage boy, knowing that nothing will ever get better, decides to use his body and his short life to "send a message" that what is happening to him and his family is so very, not good, that the world must pay attention.
Throw in 72 virgins (or in my case 72 healthy young men) and a certain ticket to paradise and it almost starts to sound reasonable to me.
This is the scary part.  How can people I know and love, who believe in peace, love, and compassion for the suffering of the poorest of the poor be talked into believing it is a good, brave thing for grown-up men to strap bombs on healthy, intelligent, and educated 16 yr-olds, pack them with nails, and send them into a crowded pizzaria to blow up themselves and as many children, and grandmothers, and waitresses, and fathers, and brothers, and sons, and yes, other 16 yr-olds as possible.  That when Saddam Hussein, or one of the Saudi Royal family, or one of Yassir Arafat's Palestinian Authority ministers pays the deceased suicide bomber's family a check for $25,000 that they think it is okay.  That when they name a street or a school after the "young martyr" that that's justified?  Would they still find justifications for the suicide bombers if they knew that many of them lived in middle class homes, were college students, and some were even engaged to be married?  So then what explains the suicide bomber phenomenon?
Perhaps it is pre-meditated mass murder.  Perhaps its the cynical exploitation of their own children, by adults to achieve a political advantage.   A gunman holds a gun to a bank tellers head and says "give me all your money."  It is nothing more than a brutal tactic that, through coercion, can at times be successful in achieving money or other items of value.  You don't say, well that robber was having trouble coming up with his rent money, and he was thirsty and wanted to buy a 12 pack of beer, and his mother was sick too, so he knocked off that bank and terrorized the teller within an inch of her life.
Israel is the maligned party here.  Israel is not responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians. Oh, they do suffer!! There's no doubt about the depth of their suffering.  But Israel is not the cause. In fact, Israel is fighting for her very existance, surrounded by enemies.  The great injustice that I see is an organized effort to falsely villify and demoralize those who would naturally come to the aid of the Jewish people and protect their long-sought homeland in Israel.  I am a leftist.  Few of my fellow leftists agree with me.
I cannot help that.  Not yet at least.  But I believe, that when those on the left know the facts, and I mean know ALL of the facts, that they will in time be convinced to rally to the support of Israel as well.


Becky Johnson

* out of deference to my Jewish Orthodox friends, I will use the hyphenated form of spelling of the name of the supreme being.