Nick Dearden and Joe Zacune, The Electronic Intifada, 22 March 2005Frequently in the global economy, it seems that corporations are able to get away with activities which would see an individual locked up in the Hague for decades.
Take the case of Caterpillar. Without selling a single bomb, gun or F16 fighter, Caterpillar has been supplying the Israeli military with its “key weapon”, in the words one Israeli commander, in its illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine. In the words of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Caterpillar’s D-9 bulldozers have been responsible for destroying “agricultural farms, greenhouses, ancient olive groves.. numerous Palestinian homes and sometimes human lives”.
The toll of human lives destroyed with these machines is truly horrifying. During the last 4 years the Israeli army has flattened over 4,000 homes – rendering tens of thousand homeless, traumatised and impoverished. Israel claims that these demolitions are punitive actions against suspected terrorists. While such punishment is anyway illegal under international humanitarian law, a recent report by Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem found that in half of all cases there was nothing linking the houses to terrorism.
Palestinians are currently suffering from poverty levels comparable with some of the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa – in the words of the United Nations it bears the “effects of a terrible natural disaster”, though one created by people and politics. A key source of this poverty is the destruction of agricultural land, the only possible source of livelihood open to many Palestinians. Caterpillar bulldozers have been used to rip up extensive areas of cultivated land, destroying thousands of olive and citrus trees. The destruction of wells, storage tanks and water pumps has several limited access to drinking water.
Caterpillar’s D9 bulldozers have been the weapon of choice to carry out some of the worst human rights violations witnessed during the Intifada. In Jenin camp, home to 14,000 refugees, bulldozers were a key component of Operation Defensive Shield, the “most extensive and severe” human rights violation since 1967 (B’Tselem). Hawashin district of the camp was levelled down to the last house, with many residents given no notice of demolition. Many were buried alive, including 38-year-old paraplegic Jamal Suliman. In his mother’s words “the bulldozer wouldn’t wait even one minute so that we could take Jamal out of the house”.
During a similar raid on a refugee camp in Rafah in May 2004, United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights John Dugard noted “Homes have been destroyed in a purely purposeless manner. Bulldozers have savagely dug up roads, including electricity, sewerage and water lines, in a brutal display of power”. In total 298 homes were destroyed in Rafah in a single month.
But perhaps the bulldozers are best described by the experiences of two young people on either side of the Occupation. Israeli Army D9-operator Moshe Nissim describes his experience of Jenin: “I had no mercy for anybody. I would erase anyone with the D9 … when I was told to demolish a house, I took the opportunity to bring down some more houses”. His unit was cited for outstanding service… [more]
A link to the “Take Action” section of this website where you can partake in the listed action initiatives ranging from sending the Caterpillar Board a letter to endorsing a Human Rights Declaration.
Note that Wednesday, April 13, 2005 is a Day of Action against Caterpillar.