Speaking at the Big Blue Marble

This Saturday, I had my first speaking engagement!!!  It was hosted by a sweet local bookstore here in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia known as the Big Blue Marble.

I’m so grateful for the friends who came and engaged with me on the afternoon.  And even the woman from the bookstore was very intrigued by the work.

In the lead-up to the event, I had a local reporter, Walter Foley, from the Mount Airy Patch write a review of my Zine.  Please e-mail me if you would like a copy of the Zine!!!  Mdegraber@gmail.com.

His review:

“How often, whether in your love life, family life, or with strangers, have you been absolutely unable to express yourself with words?” writes Matthew Graber, then 25, in a travelogue during his 2010 summer in Palestine. “The essence of life–the juice and the pulp, the sweetness of the fruit–doesn’t lie in words, but in action.”

Reflections such as this are compiled into Graber’s 34-page zine “Summertime in Palestine,” which he will present at 3 p.m Saturday at Big Blue Marble Bookstore.

One day during his time in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, he asked his host father how to say “peace” in Arabic. The father told him, “Salaam,” but added that the word means more than just “not war.”

Salaam means something more positive than the conventional idea of “peace” in the Middle East, “where peace agreements often preserve and establish control for one people over another,” he writes.

Graber’s travelogue, which documents his time as a volunteer for Holy Land Trust, offers glimpses into this concept of serenity. He attends presentations on nonviolent protesting and at one point spends a day wandering through the lush Husan Village amid ancient Roman architecture to find a group of children washing their flock of sheep in a spring.

“When you’re living in a country that averages 15 cm of rainfall a year,” Graber writes, “it’s pretty spectacular to see a freshwater spring flowing into a pool.”

Although there was no violence in surrounding areas during his visit, there was, of course tension, thanks in part to the separation of people.

“They don’t interact with Israelis on a daily basis. … Their interactions with Israelis are only with soldiers,” he said. “So when there were tanks coming through the refugee camp, they just saw Israel as a military that attacks Palestine.”

Graber and his host family were without running water for 23 days because of Israel’s rationing policies, he said. He offers a link in his zine to an Amnesty International study explaining this issue, and guides the reader to other sources of information that are meant to shine light on the troubles that face an area of the world that Americans hear about constantly but, for the most part, don’t know much about.

Graber grew up in Blue Bell and now lives in Mt. Airy while he works at a coffee shop in Center City. He’s been to Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria and Istanbul and he taught English to kids in Kazakhstan from 2007 to 2009 with the Peace Corps.

Maleka Fruean, events coordinator for Big Blue Marble Bookstore, scheduled Graber’s reading because she has respect for the Peace Corps. She also liked Graber’s do-it-yourself approach.

“I’m really interested in supporting local authors who are working around the basic, mainstream way of publishing books,” Fruean said.

Graber said the experience with his host family showed him the beauty of a compassionate community.

“The people are so loving here,” he writes in Bethlehem. “The first night, they said, ‘We have eight people in our family. With you, we now have nine.’”



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Domestic Abuse and War

Last night I saw a screening of the movie “Breaking the Silence,” which featured stories of former Israeli soldiers, as well as interviews and stories of Palestinians who suffered at the hands of Israeli soldiers.

Based on my own training with abuse, as well as personal experiences with abusive relationships (my own and those of friends – partner abuse, child abuse, labor exploitation), I saw essential parallels between abusive relationships between individuals and military occupation.

Let me be clear that what is going on in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan is not ‘war;’ but rather military occupation.  There are no Palestinian soldiers in Israel, no Iraqi soldiers in America, and no Afghan soldiers in America.  The occupying armies maintain military control of the occupied countries’ civilian populations.

There are two essential characteristics to abusive relationships which are also present during military occupation: fear and shame.

In the movie ‘Breaking the Silence,’ a Palestinian father whose home in a refugee camp has just been destroyed expresses to the filmmaker: “What is the point of rebuilding our home when the Israelis will just destroy it again?”  This is a perfectly rational fear, as the previous destruction of his home and everything he owns was completely arbitrary and random, and thus could be repeated at any time.  Similarly, those being abuse also live in constant fear of recourse.  This is often referred to as ‘walking on pins and needles’ because the abused will go about their day so cautiously as to not incite the violence of the abuser.  The constant threat of violence by the abuser allows for absolute control by way of this fear.

One Israeli soldier in the film spoke of the soldiers’ training to consistently ‘have their presence felt’ from a very early point in their training.  Whether the soldier is checking the ID card with an M16 rifle in his/her hands at one of the over 2000 checkpoints in the West Bank, or the soldier is maintaining a lookout or marching the streets of Hebron, Israeli soldiers are trained to let their presence – and control – be known to Palestinians, and to exert this control randomly and arbitrarily, so as to keep Palestinians on pins and needles, in constant fear.  Such is an occupation.

If external fear of violence does not keep a victim silent, the victim also must contend with a second essential characteristic of an abusive relationship – shame – before speaking out and telling others of the abuse.

Shame can work in many different ways, in many different circumstances.  A victim may be too ashamed to admit that he/she has been raped (and many Palestinians, Iraqis, and Afghans have), thus nobody will know about the rape, the victim will have to deal with their fear in isolation, and the rapist will go unpunished.

Shame can work in much the same way in situations of assault or torture (because what man wants to lose a fight?), or when parents are unable to find work to feed their children, or when there isn’t enough water to drink, or when you have no roof to put over your family’s heads because a missile hit your home.

As I have expressed, fear and shame are not mutually exclusive.  Many people are ashamed of being afraid.  As is the case of the Palestinian man, being in an abusive relationship can be absolutely debilitating to the abused.  Of course he needs to put a roof over his children’s heads.  But why should he invest thousands of dollars to build his home if it will just be demolished?

These are the conditions under which the subjects of military occupation live.

Before we condemn any Palestinians, Iraqis, or Afghans for not speaking up and not practicing democracy, we must look at the way in which America – or Israel – conducts our military occupations.

So write op-eds, write to your congressmen and Obama, educate yourself, boycott those who allow and maintain military occupation, and stand with love in solidarity with the people we are responsible for oppressing.  We can make a change.

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A Battle for Hearts and Minds Forged in Truth

The American counterinsurgency strategy of “winning the hearts and minds” of the citizens of the countries which our military occupies is simply a euphemism for a propaganda campaign which teaches people to hate and to fear and to love on the arbitrary bases of tribe, ethnicity, race, religion, and politics. And now we see in our media that the American wars are coming home. Corporate American media is waging the campaign for the hearts and minds of American citizens.

Thus, the American wars can only come to an end through a popular American campaign for radical love, which embraces all people, and does not permit anybody of good conscience to look down the scope of a rifle at another human being.

As we begin a new year, I am going to take this opportunity to recommit to radical love which means that I will know my enemy and to love my enemy.

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Why we need comprehensive immigration reform

A student in a journalism class asked me these four questions:

1) Why do you think the U.S should allow Mexican and other ethnic groups to come to the U.S?
2) Why do you think people that people who say “Mexicans are stealing American jobs” is not a legitimate argument?
3) Why do you think a discriminating law like SB1070 was ever implemented, and what caused it to be implemented?

4) What do you think is the greater cause or this problem? Is the problem economic, globalization, or anything else?
The following is my response:

I’m really flattered that you asked for my opinion for your article.  And I appreciate it.  I’m an intuitive sort of person, so many of my appeals for justice are based upon emotional intuition before considering objectively, based upon unemotional, situational facts, exactly how people are denied justice within US and international judicial systems.

I have gone to a few rallies calling for immigration reform, but I have never explicated how I believe that individuals who have immigrated to the USA are denied justice.  So this is an intellectual exercise for you and I both.

I gained some clarity and insight into the issue of immigrants’ rights a couple of weeks ago when I spoke with a group in West Philadelphia called ‘Circle of Peace.’  We were discussing my time in Palestine, and I had spoken about how, because of the Oslo Accords, Palestinians have no legal recourse and protection when Israelis and IDF soldiers deny Palestinians their basic human rights; and because Palestinians can’t get a fair trial, this allows the IDF and settlers to get away with theft, abuse, and violence.

I’m going to answer your questions in my roundabout sort of way.

Just as the Oslo Accords allowed for settlers and the IDF to come into the West Bank and act with legal impunity, the United States’ current national immigration policy affords no legal protection to “illegal” immigrants; and thus the policy allows individuals and systems (f. ex. corporations) to exploit, abuse, and otherwise treat inhumanely and deny basic human rights to immigrants.

How are “illegal” immigrants denied access to courts?  Simply put: immigrants’ status as “illegal” presupposes any other legal protection.  So if an immigrant can only find work at $2 an hour picking oranges in Florida, they have no legal protection.  If they want to take their employer to court for violations of inhumane working conditions, they cannot because they have already lost the lawsuit by being “illegal.”  If they want to exercise their freedom of assembly to collectively (by union) object to inhumane working conditions, they cannot because they have already lost that lawsuit.

Thus, the very existence of immigrants who come to the USA illegally is declared illegal.  By declaring an individual illegal, the United States no longer recognizes these immigrants’ right to exist.  Any individual who wishes to can notify the police at any time, and these immigrants will be thrown in prison and deported.

There are some opportunistic capitalists who see the advantages of being acquainted with “illegal” immigrants.  Why pay workers the minimum wage when immigrants can be forced to work for $2 an hour?  If an employer can pay an immigrant one-third of the minimum wage, that means that the employer can have three times the labor force.  The exploitation of immigrants can increase production in agricultural, construction, mining, textiles, and other labor markets.

And there are other systems which profit from exploiting and denying the rights of immigrants.  How many people are incarcerated not because of crimes, but for violating the US immigration policy (this is not a rhetorical question – look this up!)?  The US prison system, in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is another example of opportunistic capitalists such as the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) taking advantage of the immigrant population to create business.  Jobs are created for police departments, investigators, border security, immigration HR departments, prison guards and owners, and all of those who see building and sustaining prisons as an occupation.  (Note: as a journalist you should explore also prison labor.  I don’t know much about it, but I do know that it is still prevalent).

With this as the US national immigration policy, it is no surprise that SB1070 was proposed and passed within the Arizona state legislature.

Honestly, I wish I could say that I know more about SB1070.  I wish I could say that I fight tirelessly for the rights of millions of “illegal” immigrants in this country.  But I don’t.  So I won’t try to guess how SB1070 came to pass.  But if you want to know, I suggest investigating who the major campaign contributors were in recent Arizona state congressional campaigns.  That is usually a good indicator of whose interests are being represented in US politics.

And as far as your first question: “Why do you think the US should allow Mexicans and other ethnic groups into the US?”  Because I’m here.  Why should I be allowed to stand here whereas another isn’t?  But this is only my intuitive response.  I haven’t given extensive thought to what my ideal immigration policy would be.  I know that it would be very different from what it currently is in Arizona and nationwide.  And I know that I – and our country – will only come to a better idea through dialogue and debate.  But I’m skeptical that that conversation will begin or be fruitful.

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Philadelphia in Mourning (Mourning in Philadelphia)

I was contemplating sending this out to friends and family as an e-mail.  But I’ve moved from being angry to being sad.  Thus, rather than externalizing the need for change, I’ve internalized it.  It’s a lonely process, but I realize that many people whom I consider friends choose ignorance over knowing for the convenience of their own lives.  Thus, I figure this will be an easier way for some to ignore the truth.  Not so in-your-face.
On facebook today, a friend wrote “It’s quiet this morning in Philadelphia… I wonder why…” in reference to the loss of the Phillies to the Braves and the end of their baseball season.  Ok, its sad.  No more baseball.

Yesterday, there was other news as well.  Wikileaks.org released a trove of almost 400,000 formerly-classified US military documents to the public detailing events in Iraq since the start of the US war there in 2003.  These documents detail the circumstances surrounding the killings of nearly 100,000 people, including US and international military forces, Iraqi military and security forces, and Iraqi civilians.

A number of the websites which I frequent have incredibly intriguing stories coming to light within these war documents.  Al Jazeera News has at least 8 different stories coming out of these documents.  Mother Jones has a story about Iranian surveillance and intervention in Iraq.

So.  What do you think of this?  Will you not lift another finger?  Will you go to the wikileaks website and find out what’s going on?  Honestly, if you have 5 minutes, I’d recommend going to al Jazeera and reading the headlines.  If you have half an hour, I’d recommend al Jazeera and maybe Mother Jones.  And if you have a couple hours to educate yourself about what the US military is doing and has gotten done to them in Iraq, then I’d recommend browsing through the wikileaks website.

Honestly, when I was in Palestine, I saw first-hand footage of Iraqi “freedom fighters” killing NATO troops.  And I still think about that constantly.  THIS was the form that hope took for the majority of Iraqis and Arabs in the region.  Can we do anything else to provide hope to these people that the war WILL END?  I’m going to look up organizations involved there, and I’m still yearning to get back to the middle east.

Why?  Because there, they mourn their dead.  Here, nobody mourns even our own soldiers.  We just mourn for the baseball team.

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Lets be honest for a moment…

Dear friends,

I haven’t been telling you the whole truth.  At the expense of the truth, I have been trying to protect you from the terribly awful things that I saw while I was in Palestine so that you wouldn’t feel as guilty and disturbed and troubled.  So that you would be able to continue your lives unperturbed.  But I’ve realized that we as Americans need to knwo the truth.  We need to know what’s going on in OUR name so that we can passionately move towards actually building a better world that serves people, rather than the world we live in where people steal land and water with impunity, where they kill and there is no justice, and where there is no place for Palestinians.

This is the track that we’re on.

So I’ve been on the e-mail list of Mazin Qumsiyeh, a former Yale professor who now resides in the West Bank.  I met him while in Bethlehem and he is a brilliant speaker.  Here is his latest e-mail:

Inbox Negotiations while ethnic cleansing continues.

Seven million of the 11 million Palestinians are refugees or displaced people.  Israeli war criminals and US officials complicit in ethnic cleansing meet in fancy hotels to claim they are “negotiating” for peace (while in the meantime giving green light to further ethnic cleansing and destruction of Palestinian lives to strengthen the apartheid system….

Israeli colonial officers destroy the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in the Negev for the fifth time (the village existed in this location before Israel was created in 1948) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5Koc7iEx8E

Colonial apartheid soldiers seal shops in Hebron to add to hundreds of shops closed because illegal settlers took over nearby buildings.  Video and story by Israeli human Rights group B’Tselem

Must Read: Where has the hypocrisy gone? Amira Hass in Haaretz
No one thinks to ask about the consensus among the residents of Palestinian cities and villages on whose land the settlements have been built. The millions of Palestinians don’t count at all.

Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics released a report showing the number of settlers in the West Bank reached 517,774


But popular resistance is growing and more people are getting involved. There is widening gap between government officials and the people around the world on this issue. Millions of activists are being mobilized for the
boycotts, divestments and sanctions movement and as the negotiations lead nowhere, the apartheid system is being exposed more.  It will happen just as suddenly and unexpectedly as the fall of apartheid in South Africa. Your
involvement can help.

Action: Sign petition Ban Israel from the 2012 Olympics

Example of the thousands of lectures and events organized around the world.

Houston Conference for One Democratic State October 22-24, 2010

Present Resolving the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict: Why One Democratic State
Is the Best Solution
featured speakers:  Joel Kovel& Norton Mezvinsky
Wednesday, October 27 – 7:30 p.m. at the Brecht Forum, 51 West Street
(between Bank & Bethune Streets, New York, NY 10014 – Phone: (212) 242-4201
Email: brechtforum@brechtforum.org
Join Professors Joel Kovel and Norton Mezvinsky as each presents his
respective argument for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
Kovel will argue that a two-state solution cannot solve the conflict,
because it continues the Jewish ethno-chauvinism that lies at the core of
Mezvinsky will propose that a democratic and just two-state solution is
highly unlikely to occur and that the presently constructed one state can
and must be changed by an emphasis upon and implementation of fair and equal
human rights for all inhabitants of the state.
Discussion to follow.
Sliding scale: $6/$10/$15
Free for Brecht Forum Subscribers

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities
Chairman of the Board, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People,

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63 Years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, in her book Defying Dixie: The radical roots of civil rights 1919 – 1950, writes:

p. 9

A focus on the mid-century civil rights movement suggests that African Americans simply wanted desegregation and highlights NAACP school litigation and the Montgomery bus boycott.  On the contrary, African Americans had worked for decades to secure social justice in broader terms.  The NAACP’s litigation campaign that resulted in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 was only part of a much larger campaign, even within the NAACP, for economic opportunity and a thoroughgoing reordering of society to recognize universal human rights.    It swept away connections among civil liberties, civil rights, and labor rights that liberals and radicals had carefully forged from the mid-1930s onward.  Taking this narrow view, Black Power betrayed the movement of which it had always been part, and the cries from Watts for equal economic opportunity were anti-American.

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