Independent Media Center, Israel

Its a matter of ethical terms
author: Gilad

Hello Ben,

Its good that you posted your comment, because that gives me a good excuse to elaborate the weak point in my comment to Youri's article.

In order to clarify the definition i came up with for nonviolent action the first thing to do is to clearly define the terms which i use. I'll apologize before i start, because most of my studies in this field have been done in hebrew. so there will probably be some trouble with my attempt to translate everything to english.

Now that the set has been placed, and the apology as well, lets begin.

Passive: being passive, is quite simply doing nothing. It might serve a further goal (like sleeping enabling action), but for itself is a negation of action. There are several forms of pacifism which hold passiveness as an ideal, and are refered as "quietist". A prime example for this approach are the european jews during the holocaust.

Action: basicly, anything a man does. be it drink, eat, talk or fire a gun. by itself it has no significant ethical meaning.

Force: force is the basic concept which causes the most misunderstanding in the theory of nonviolence. Force, in all actuality, is practicly synynomous (i just *know* i spelled that wrong) with action. Pushing my grandfathers wheelchair when we go outside involves force. My work in the construction site takes enormous amounts of force. These examples being given to show that any action, be it violent or nonviolent, involve force.

Hurt: hurt is but a possible effect of action. it doesn't neccesarily represent physical damage (e.g., psychological repression)- but that is an entirely different topic. here i will regard only physical hurt.

hurt is the effect caused by a forceful action. it is the physical reaction on a subject to force inflicted upon him. e.g., when a shock-grenade explodes a meter away from me-- i'm hurt. some might exapnd the definition and regard also animals as subjects required for ethical treatment, but that again is a different topic. none (that i know) would argue that inanimate objects (e.g., a stone, a house, a fence) can be "hurt". when a building is destroyed, for whatever reason, it doesn't "hurt".

Harm: hurt being ellaborated extensivly, harm is a more general term. a house, when demolished, defenitly is harmed. so is a tree being cut down, etc.

now that the distinction between the terms has been set, its time also to mention their cases of interrelation.

people, which can be hurt, often rely on objects which can be harmed. a house being destroyed, does hurt the family which once lived in it -- since they doen't have a roof over their heads. a fruit tree being bulldozed out of the ground can hurt a man living off it -- since he doesn't have what to it. and just the same, a sabotaged fence doesn't provide the same sense security a whole one does.

but a lacking of "sense of security" isn't the equivelent of hurt. and so is the man's malnutrition because his fruit trees have been destroyed. if the lacking security causes a violent action actually happening, the action causing the lacking security can be regarded as sinful. perhaps as a cause, or source, of violence. but it definitly isn't violence by itself.

violence: violence is an action taken by one human in order to harm another human. a torando, destructives as it may be, isn't "violent". when i wait in line to get in to the bus and somebody pushes behind me, and i in effect stumble and hurt the person waiting in front of me, i am not being "violent".

thus, consciensiously hurting somebody is neccesarily violence. purposely harming an object isn't neccesarily violence. when i burn a log in a bon-fire with friends, even though i'm harming the log, i'm not commiting violence. when a house is destroyed (harmed) in order to hurt the family that lives in it- that's violence.

but when a gate in a fence -- which has been promised by the IDF itself to be open -- is broken in order to allow passage of civilians that want to plow their share of land, that simply isn't violence.

now, it is true that there is a possibility that a terrorist (read: one who's intention is to hurt) can get through the damaged (harmed) fence/wall. but that is already a completely different action, and needs to be judges seperately. that is to say, you can judge an action by it's intended effects, but not by something that is completely opposed to them.

Now, i fear that i've already gained a length exceeding my intentions. that is, when wanting to clarify one generaly prefer to remain concise. i'll probably wan't to elaborate exactly what non-violent action is in the future, but for the meanwhile i hope that my definition of violence would suffice.

hope you haven't been completely bored by this dictionary-thing i just did, and may peace prevail from jerusalem.

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