Saturday, April 18, 2009

Welcome Swallow

Welcome Swallow
Originally uploaded by steve happ

Friday, February 20, 2009

Acts of Terrorism and Acts of War

Acts of Terrorism and Acts of War

The standard dictionary definition of terrorism is the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion (see note). As a condition, terror is a state of intense fear or anxiety. As an act, terror is violent or destructive behavior motivated by a desire to intimidate a population or government into changing course or granting a demand. Although, as with any term, there is no universal definition of terrorism, the consensus is that terrorism refers to acts intended to terrorize people (not merely the destruction of property or sabotage), that are systematic and motivated by political goals, and that either deliberately target or consistently disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians).
Granting this understanding, and setting aside contrived definitions of terrorism found in self-serving law codes created by specific states to advance particular interests, it is difficult to argue that those individuals who attacked the Navy destroyer the USS Cole in October 2000, while harbored in the Yemeni port of Aden, are terrorists. True, seventeen American sailors were killed in the attack. But sailors are not non-combatants. Whether you agree with the motive of those who carried our the bombing, the USS Cole was a legitimate military target. In March of 2007, a federal court ruled that the Sudanese government was responsible for the bombing, arguing the al-Qaeda operatives who carried out the attack could not have done so without the assistance of the Sudanese government. This ruling means that the attack on the USS Cole was an act of war. It follows, then, that those held by US authorities at Guantanamo Bay are to be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Convention and other international principles concerning the treatment of prisoners or war. To consistently identify the case of the USS Cole as part of an ongoing war on terror (whatever this war is really about) is inappropriate.
In contrast, the acts of Israel in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, which started on December 27, 2008 and lasted until January 18, 2009, killing more than 1300 Palestinians, injuring thousands more, and destroying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property, do constitute terrorism, as the acts amounted to the systematic use of terror as a means of coercing Palestinians into ceasing acts of resistance to Israeli colonization and occupation of Palestinian land. The Israeli policy of both targeting civilians (around 70 percent of those killed were civilians, one third were children) and consistently disregarding the safety of civilians was intended to terrorize Palestinians. Yet, the United States not only backed Israel all the way, but is now seeking to prevent Palestinians access to weapons to defend themselves from violence and resist colonization while continuing to sell weapons to Israel (including DIME and white phosphorus ordinance).
Note: Coercion is often defined as restraining or dominating by force or to achieve by force of threat. But it is also defined as an act or situation that compels persons to act certain ways or choose certain things. To compel means to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly. Hunger, for example, compels one to behave in ways that increase the likelihood of food, since hunger compels one to eat (failure to eat causes death, therefore any policy that causes starvation is homicide). For example, a situation in which land is monopolized by a few, and the many are forbidden to freely seek food, compels the many to act in ways they otherwise would not, by either submitting themselves to the wishes of the few or organizing to overthrow the rule of the few (for those who own the land inevitably rule those who do not). The former usually takes the form of some type of servitude, ranging from chattel slavery (where persons are outright owned) to wage slavery (where persons are compelled to rent their bodies). Any situation becomes coercive when there are few or no alternatives to acting in ways contrary to the actor's wishes. Not all coercion is wrong. Ideally, the criminal law is designed to coerce people into making socially-appropriate choice, these designed to enhance the freedom of society as a whole.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Caryl Churchill play: Seven Jewish Children: a response to Gaza

Caryl Churchill, one of Britain's leading playwrights has written a short play, called Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza, which is a ten minute history of Israel, ending with the bombing of Gaza. Thirteen performances are taking place on the main stage of the Royal Court in London. Churchill has said "It came out of feeling strongly about what's happening in Gaza - it's a way of helping the people there. Everyone knows about Gaza, everyone is upset about it, and this play is something they could come to. It's a political event, not just a theatre event…. Anyone can perform it without acquiring the rights, as long as they do a collection for people in Gaza at the end of it."
The Guardian’s Michael Billington writes “The work consists of seven cryptic scenes in which parents, grandparents and relatives debate how much children should know and not know. It moves, implicitly, from the Holocaust to the foundation of the state of Israel through the sundry Middle East wars up to the invasion of Gaza. At first, the advice indicates the deep divisions within Israel ("Tell her they want to drive us into the sea" / "Tell her they don't"); at the end, it becomes a ruthless justification for self-preservation ("Tell her we're the iron fist now, tell her it's the fog of war, tell her we won't stop killing them till we're safe")…What she captures, in remarkably condensed poetic form, is the transition that has overtaken Israel, to the point where security has become the pretext for indiscriminate slaughter. Avoiding overt didacticism, her play becomes a heartfelt lamentation for the future generations who will themselves become victims of the attempted military suppression of Hamas.”
An extract of the play is below:
“Don’t tell her how many of them have been killed
Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed
Tell her they’re terrorists
Tell her they’re filth
Don’t tell her about the family of dead girls
Tell her you can’t believe what you see on television
Tell her we killed the babies by mistake
Don’t tell her anything about the army
Tell her, tell her about the army, tell her to be proud of the army. Tell her about the family of dead girls, tell her their names why not, tell her the whole world knows, why shouldn’t she know? tell her there’s dead babies, did she see babies? Tell her she’s got nothing to be ashamed of. Tell her they did it to themselves. Tell her they want their children killed to make people sorry for them, tell her I’m not sorry for them, tell her not to be sorry for them, tell her we’re the ones to be sorry for, tell her they can’t talk suffering to us. Tell her we’re the iron fist now, tell her it’s the fog of war, tell her we won’t stop killing them till we’re safe, tell her I laughed when I saw the dead policeman, tell her I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out, the world would hate us is the only thing, tell her I don’t care if the world hates us, tell her we’re better haters, tell her we’re chosen people, tell her I look at one of their children covered in blood and what do I feel? Tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her. “
The full text of the play can be downloaded from:
The URL for the Royal Court is: