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At Hunter College, it isn’t uncommon to see tables and stands set up for the purpose of condemning Israel for crimes of humanity against Palestinians. I have a unique sensitivity towards that particular topic. Israel is the country of my birth, the homeland of my people, and a region plagued with conflict and contempt. The stands at Hunter College, and very likely in universities across the world, have denounced this country of mine as a human rights offender, a barbarous conqueror, and a twisted devil of an oppressor. Quite frankly, Jews have a habit of keeping silent for too long until it is too late. After 1945 we swore that we would never let our name as a people be libeled again. Never again, we told the world, and that is what i am here to tell you.

The “official” story so to speak, is that Israel has committed heinous crimes against Palestinians. While it can in no way be denied that the Palestinian population is in a desolate state, it can certainly  in no way shape or form be blamed on the Israelis. As educated and skeptical readers, I beg of you to examine the policies of Yasser Arafat, an Arab leader who put his wife up in a Paris hotel while his own people starved. I beg you to look at Israel’s recent history, where a unilateral pullout of Gaza was enacted, and relinquished to Palestinians. This was only to be rewarded with militant activities, terror attacks on civilians, and destruction of infrastructure. It is also an indisputable fact that the PLO was formed in 1964, well before there were any “occupied territories.” The question begs to be asked: what is it that the PLO wanted then?

My pitch is simply this: EXAMINE THE HISTORY BOOKS. THERE IS MORE TO THIS CONFLICT THAT MEETS THE EYE. ISRAEL IS NOT TO BLAME.

It is time to stop pointing fingers at the wrong people. There is Joseph Kony, there was Hitler, there was Stalin. These are true human rights offenders. In framing this issue as it deserves to be framed (with hard, cold evidence) I hope to reverse a stark perversion of the truth. Israel is no oppressor, and certainly has not set the standard for mistreatment in the Middle East. I can certainly name a few countries that have done far worse. By examining history, I will present the facts, and the truth will be there for those who have the courage to see it. Only through understanding, rather than emotional appeal and good PR, can the conflict in the Middle East  be resolved.

Parachute cut. Baggy cut. Straight cut. Skinny cut. Super skinny cut. For the past 2 decades of my existence, this has been the development of denim. The more fashion develops, the slimmer denim becomes. I remember that when I was little, jeans we’re ONLY for hanging out. God forbid I wear jeans to church, or to a funeral, or to a wedding, my mother would rip them off of me and strangle me to death. She thought of them as tacky, and disrespectful in an elegant environment. Truth is, most of that generation had the same mindset as my mother. Many of my elders would agree and also hang me with a denim noose.

I think of all of my denim as a “genie in a bottle”. They are my go-to pairs of bottoms. If I am lazy, I throw on my jeans. If I am running to the store, I throw on my jeans. If I am hanging out in the city, I throw on my jeans. They are just so comfortable. Especially after they break in, it feels like I’m running around bottomless! (Sorry for the image).

Time and trends are respecters of no one. In the past few years, denim has grown on people. It seems as if literally over night, denim became dressy. In my teenage super rebellious years I decided to wear jeans to church. (I know, I know. I was a real rebel). But it seemed that everyone else was doing the same. People started to wear jeans with graphic tees and threw on a blazer over it. BAM! DRESSY! Men wore button downs with jeans and shoes. BAM! DRESSY! Women wore jeans, a blouse and heels. BAM! DRESSY! I didn’t start anything. Society changed together. We collectively and sub-consciously permitted denim to enter the category of “dressy”. The funny thing is, the lower and working class have been doing it since jeans we’re invented. It always seems to take forever for the upper class to catch up.

Abraham Ariel Vazquez

It’s hard to believe that I didnt know you but a week ago

Now its like your my hero I know all about you your my favorite show

You turned things around bought us back put us on that winning flow

How you did it where you came from doesn’t matter just keep dishing

Television trash tube and trains your a subliminal message

I get hype I have not felt since over a year ago just keep linning

Media has taken from you your peace of mind its about to get real gory

t least you can bank on one thing you really are a LINderella story

Do me a favor and make it work with Melo this country wont let it go

I’m liking the new pad thinking about sleeping on the couch? Thats a NO NO

This picture, in my opinion, is a reflection of “access and interpretation”. The book on the left is the Qu’ran, and the book on the right is the Bible. It is interesting to not that these books are both the same width, size, and thickness. It seems as these books are “butting heads” with each other.

The way this represents access and interpretation is that today, these two books are highly accessible. Anyone with money, or with no money, can get access to the books. The difference between these two books are their interpretation. Each book claim’s to be the verbatim words of God. Not only does religion interpret God’s words differently, but the reader also make their own interpretation as well. People interpret their readings in a way which reflects their circumstance.

Image

Nothing has changed. For centuries, history repeats itself again and again. Though there are different characters, scenarios, and environments, the plot, the outcome, and the effects are still the same. In reading “Learning to Read and Growing in Knowledge”, “The Readers’ Strike”, and  “Frankie Mae,  I realized that these people all experienced the same story, but with different circumstances and environments. At on point in all of our lives, events  happens that can alters how we approach different situations. For example, growing up with parents verbally or physically abusing a child, that child can grow up to resent anyone who tries to harm them. It changes their perspective on love, relationship, and friendship causing them to receive communication in pessimistic way. In different cases, those children can grow up to be better than their parents were and develop a tenderhearted character. And yet again in other cases, children can grow up to be anti-social and avoid anymore hurt. In each of these articles, we see each character reflect at least one of these oppressed children.

Fredrick Douglas is a rare find. Born into slavery, and living most of his life as a slave, Douglas chose the path of stepping out over his contenders and oppressors and proving himself as an educated human being. His turning point began when his Master, Hugh Auld, “proceeded to unfold to his wife the true philosophy of the slave system, and the peculiar rules necessary in the nature of the case to be observed in the management of human chattels”. “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell” continues, Mr. Hugh Auld. These words, “stirred up within [Douglas] a rebellion not soon to be allayed”. I believe from this point forward, Douglas used this encounter as fuel for his life long campaign of advocating for slaves. He would forever be proof that “knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom”.

José Yglesias, a cigar maker of Ybor City, the barrio of the city of Tampa, was one who decided to live with what they were used to. José and the rest of the cigar makers decided to go on strike for 3 months because they believed they we’re being oppressed by their superiors. This was more than just owners feeling as if

it was not right that these men…

should seem so to enjoy the ideas in the words of

Zola, Dickens, Cervantes, Tolstoy…so that

this very delicate labor of rolling fine cigars

might seem less tedious there in the hot sun

in the middle of a depression…

This was an attempt to censor these very absorbent minds. Minds that could come together and think together, and revolt together, and actually make change. The 3 month strike wasn’t to get paid more or to fix working conditions. It was to prove that the work has been done. The words they heard has already helped shape their minds and helped them think for themselves. However in the end, they went back to work without anyone reading to them. Their knowledge was caped out.

Frankie Mae is like those who completely shut themselves out from society after oppression. She found an outlet which was education and thinking. But one statement would forever change her drive for learning and her drive for living. “Long as you live, bitch, I’, gonna be right and you gonna be wrong. Now get your black ass outta here.” Mr. White Junior had succeeded in his version of censorship. He completely controlled her life by planting in her head nothing will change. I can just picture Frankie Mae, replaying those words day after day. Living according to what her boss had said. Her turning point turned her backwards.

The Cost of Education has created a huge gap between the wealthy class and the middle/lower class. With the increasing costs of tuition in public universities, the middle class is struggling to put their children through higher education.

This hits the middle and working classes particularly hard. Struggling families often face rough patches during which they don’t have enough cash on hand to make such payments, and so have to go to their credit cards — and pay the fees. Meanwhile, wealthy families that can afford to simply write a check upfront each month avoid both credit card fees and interest payments.

To be fair, monthly payment plans intend to help lower-income families afford college. But they have also had the unintentional consequence of creating bonuses for the wealthy and added impediments to the less well-off.

The New York Times

Who gets to go to college? The wealthy? So they can continue to produce wealthy, educated offspring? The New York Times says it the best:

Our institutions of higher learning cannot continue to offer their best deals to a privileged few. Our country needs colleges and universities to recruit and cultivate talented young people from diverse backgrounds. To do so, we must ensure that children from working families have the mechanisms not only to obtain college admission and afford to attend without compromising their studies, but also to be free to enter the economy relatively unburdened by debt.

The New York Times

The wealthy politicians and decision makers are wedging a form of censorship in front of the middle/lower class. Education is slowly becoming something that is difficult to get a hold of. Don’t we have the right to learn? Why should my future career be in jeopardy because I don’t have the funds to properly gain the knowledge necessary for that field. I am a young American. I am the future of America. One day I will decide what is necessary for the next generation. I need to be properly trained in order to make those decisions. If not, this country will rot as it is already doing. I must change was Douglas said to this, Knowledge is the pathway between today and tomorrow.

Tae Hee Koo

via Google images

Frederick Douglass, Jose Yglesius, and Frankie Mae were all in positions of inferiority. Frederick Douglass was a slave who believed that he was “really well off” because he had a mistress who was “more akin to a mother” and a master who “was never cruel” to him (68). Jose Yglesias was one of the exploited cigarmakers in Tampa, Florida (82). Frankie Mae was an African-American girl who was discriminated against because of the color of her skin. It is quite clear that Yglesias was well aware of the oppression that he lived under. Indeed, he did not need the “well-intentioned leaflets of the communists to understand that [he was] hot and poor and tired… and that [his] employers [were] not” because he knew it through experience (82). Both Douglass and Mae, on the other hand, were oblivious to their reality until those in power who maintained the system of oppression helped bring them to consciousness. Douglass claimed that Mr. Hugh’s “antislavery lecture” that he gave to his wife “sunk like heavy weights deep into [his] heart and stirred up within [him] a rebellion.” He claimed that it “was a new and special revelation” (70). Mae realized that even education could not empower African Americans during her conflict with Mr. Junior who asserted that he would always be right and she would always be wrong (20).

via Google images

These victims of oppression reacted differently to enlightenment. Rather than oppose the system, Frankie Mae lost hope and did not bounce “back to her old bright eyed self.” She “lost interest” in school, stopped dressing well, and eventually died during childbirth (21). However, knowledge provoked both Douglass and Yglesius to rebel against the status quo. Douglass was “filled with the determination to learn to read at any cost.” In addition, he “frequently talked about” slavery, the “delicate subject” that was often avoided (72). Yglesius and the other cigarmakers went on a “reader’s strike” against “their employers who had forbidden men to read to them” (84).

via Google images

Similarly, in today’s society, many people have been utilizing the growth of social media to challenge authority and the existing systems of oppression. For instance, Russians used “Russian internet blogs and online media” to protest against the rigged, undemocratic elections. They called for “riots and a revolution” which authorities tried to suppress by attempting to shut-down their accounts (RIAWP). Social media also “played a vital role in shaping the political agenda of the Arab Spring.” It was used by many activists to spread ideas about democracy and freedom. Much like in Russian, the authorities tried to stifle the use of social media. For example, the internet was shut down in Egypt by the officials. However, this only caused greater revolt from the Egyptians who took their activism to the streets (DEM).

Sit back and let the media take control? No!

I no longer want to let the invisible hands of society

be the hand that decides which step I take

which outfit i buy, or what food I eat

I want to be my own person, I want to be my own.

I am being swallowed up by the pressures of this world and

I am being spit out into the bowl of “status quo”

Well there is an escape button no one pays attention to

Media infects our vision, our hearing, our thinking

It causes us to think according to its perception

But its enemy, is its friend.

We can think on our own, we can see for ourselves, we can hear on our own.

That my friend, is how we conform no more.