Protesters blocking construction of Israel’s wall. (Photo: Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)
In the aftermath of TIAA CREF’s divestment from Caterpillar Israel advocates are claiming the BDS movement invented a “conflict between the machine and the Palestinian people.” Today Gerit Palast from Israel Action Network, a $6 million project of Jewish Federation of North America and the Jewish Council of Public Affairs launched to squelch BDS efforts, said:
Pro-BDS groups have constructed the ‘Caterpillar Myth’ that insinuates a conflict between the machine and the Palestinian people. It is designed to invoke dystopian images, link BDS to specific Israeli policies and appeal to fear.
But for years rights groups have documented violations of international law carried out by the Israeli army with the weaponized Caterpillar D9 bulldozers and the unmanned Caterpillar armored vehicles.
Global Exchange’s Economic Activism for Palestine highlights some major cases of abuse including demolishing an entire neighborhood in Jenin (2002), Southern Lebanon (2006) Operation Cast Lead (2008-09) and the death of American peace activists Rachel Corrie (2003):
During the April 2002 attack on the Jenin Refugee Camp, Caterpillar D9s have leveled hundreds of civilian houses, ‘to make pathways into the camp.’ As a 2002 Human Rights Watch report reveals, some of the houses were crushed onto their inhabitants and approximately 4,000 people were rendered homeless.
In May 2004, Caterpillar bulldozers were also used in the Israeli army’s assault on the refugee camp of Rafah, in the Gaza Strip. A Human Rights Watch report refers to these mass demolitions, stating “During regular nighttime raids and with little or no warning, Israeli forces used armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozers to raze blocks of homes at the edge of the camp, incrementally expanding a ‘buffer zone’ that is currently up to three hundred meters wide. The pattern of destruction strongly suggests that Israeli forces demolished homes wholesale, regardless of whether they posed a specific threat, in violation of international law. In most of the cases Human Rights Watch found the destruction was carried out in the absence of military necessity.’ The report goes on to point out instance of homes, and infrastructure such as roads, being destroyed without just cause.
Caterpillar D9 bulldozers preceded the Israeli troops in the invasions to South Lebanon (2006) and to Gaza (2008), as highlighted in the Goldstone Report, to systematically destroy civilian buildings, homes, land, crops, orchards, and infrastructure. According to eyewitness reports, the destruction continues well after the Israeli soldiers take control of the area.
According to Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the ‘extensive destruction and appropriation of property carried out unlawfully and wantonly’ are war crimes._In March 2003, a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer operated by the Israeli army killed the peace activist Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen, while she was nonviolently protesting the demolishment of a Palestinian home in Rafah.