Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gazans driving Caterpillars; Rachel Corrie spinning in grave

For the past few years Palestinian sympathisers and Israel haters have been waging a campaign against US construction equipment maker Caterpillar, on the grounds that it builds the D9 earthmovers used by the Israeli Defence Forces.

Campaigners say the IDF uses the bulldozers to illegally demolish Palestinian homes. The IDF says it uses them to demolish buildings used by terrorists as firing positions, and to dismantle booby-traps and fill in weapons-smuggling tunnels.

A D9 famously ran over and killed the flag-burning US activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza in 2003, spawning an entire canon of sub-standard poetry and drama. The pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement claimed she was 'murdered' while trying to protect Palestinian homes, producing a series of contradictory and apparently faked photos to support their claims. (HT for that last link Israel Matzav.)

The IDF says its troops were clearing weapons-smuggling infrastructure, and that there was no way the driver of the D9 could have seen Corrie. Corrie's family and others have tried to sue Caterpillar but failed, and she has become a hero of the Palestinian 'resistance' movement, and its official PR arm.

Whatever the truth of that particular incident, it's fair to say that, in the eyes of the anti-Israel lobby, Caterpillar's name is Mudd – or maybe that should be Earth. In 2004 Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said:

Caterpillar betrays its stated values when it sells bulldozers to Israel knowing that they are being used to illegally destroy Palestinian homes. Until Israel stops these practices, Caterpillar’s continued sales will make the company complicit in human rights abuses.

So it comes as something of a surprise to see Palestinians clearing up the damage caused by last week's Israeli strikes on Gaza with… a Caterpillar:

Apologies for the picture quality – it's a screen grab of a video, which is itself pretty ropey (or maybe it's my monitor…) on the BBC's website. But if you click to enlarge it you can clearly see 'CAT' on the engine cowling, and 'CATERPILLAR' along the top of the windscreen.

The BBC video is here (if that doesn't work the page is here – click the 'Watch' button below the photo). The Caterpillar appears briefly at 50 seconds, but there's no commentary. There's another version, with commentary, here (the page is here). It's edited differently, and the Caterpillar appears at 46 seconds. The branding is clearly visible in both clips.

It's what's known as a 'backhoe loader', rather than the notorious, almost larger-than-life D9, but a Caterpillar it most certainly is. This must be what they call the 'circle of earthmoving': Caterpillars knock the buildings down, Caterpillars come along and clear up the mess, and so it continues…

You've got to hand it to Caterpillar’s Mid-East sales rep. Talk about playing both sides – the guy has to be in line for 'salesman of the year' and a weekend in Vegas.

There are several websites, including Stop Caterpillar, devoted to attacking Caterpillar, and calling for boycotts of its products (I for one will certainly have pause for thought next time I'm out shopping for a 150,000lb earthmover). You can see some endearingly pathetic photos of a demo in England here.

The United Methodist Church in the US is running a disinvestment campaign against Caterpillar. The General Synod of the Church of England, under the leadership of the hapless Rowan Williams, voted to do the same in 2006, but was snubbed by its investments advisory group.

Among leftist opponents of Israel, Caterpillar has become a by-word for the perceived injustices visited on the Palestinian people. Maybe someone ought to tell the Palestinians.

Related: Business as usual at the BBC

Thanks to all who linked. In Berlin for a few days so not much time for blogging. I was at the Holocaust memorial shortly after hearing of the attack on the seminary in Jerusalem. Maybe I'll have some thoughts when I get back.


Smooth said...

Hi Mike, thanks very much for posting the links on my site. I am all in favor of using my comment section to share information.

As for Caterpillar bulldozers, they are being used to tear down illegal palestinian arab homes. In the absence of regulated planning, building activity in eastern Jerusalem was permitted under provision 78 of the Planning and Construction Law. Arab construction developed at random, unregulated building without any neighborhood planning; a few stone houses of one or two stories scattered over step hills; winding, unpaved access roads and cesspools serving many households instead of an orderly sewer and drainage system. When the "intifada" broke out, illegal Arab construction in Jerusalem turned from building that was done out of distress because of the housing shortage to building that was done out of defiance against Israeli rule. The arab homes deserve to be destroyed.

It is noteworthy that the ISM and others who call for divestment against Caterpillar Inc never say a word against Arabs bulldozing the evidence for the physical foundations of Judaism at the Temple Mount.

On another note, How Rachel Corrie really died, which I saw that you linked to on your site, was originally written by me at the personal request of Lee Kaplan of StopTheISM, who is the one who went to Israel to retrieve the data and film from the IDF.

Israel Matsav refused to hat tip me, even after I rebuked him for it in an email exchange. Suffice it to say, he does not deserve the credit that he is getting for that post.

Here's my post which I wrote a week earlier:

Anonymous said...

Good Job! :)

Anonymous said...

Rachel Corrie -- Martyr, idiot, dedicated, deluded. Why did this American college student crushed by an Israeli bulldozer put her life on the line? And did it matter?

Great post.