Home Demolitions in Palestine
Tractored Out by the Cats
From The Grapes of Wrath:
The tractors came over the roads and into the fields, great crawlers moving like insects, having the incredible strength of insects….The man sitting in the iron seat did not look like a man; gloved, goggled, rubber dust mask over the nose and mouth, he was part of the monster, a robot in the seat…
A twitch of the controls could swerve the cat’, but the driver’s hands could not twitch because the monster that built the tractor, the monster that sent the tractor out, had somehow gotten into his brain and muscle, had goggled him and muzzled him—goggled his mind, muzzled his speech, goggled his perception…He could not see the land as it was, he could not smell the land as it smelled; his feet did not stamp the clods or feel the warmth and power of the earth. He sat in an iron seat and stepped on iron pedals. …
The iron gate [of the cat’] bit into the house corner, crumbled the wall, and wrenched the little house from its foundation so that it fell sideways, crushed like a bug. And the driver was goggled and a rubber mask covered his nose and mouth. The tractor cut a straight line on, and the air and the ground vibrated with its thunder. The tenant man stared after it, his rifle in his hand. His wife was beside him, and the quiet children behind. And all of them stared after the tractor. Chapter 5
When the Caterpillar tractors tore into the homes of the tenant farmers of the Depression-era Midwest and made them homeless, refugees in a land they had cared for and cultivated for years, it was for the greed of the few, and the new world order that could think only of profit. Human lives, the health of the earth, were not to be considered.
Today in Palestine Caterpillar bulldozers are again at work; destroying homes, crops, and working to crush the hope of the people. Here it is the machinery of colonialism, of taking the land of the native inhabitants and getting rid of its people.
An Israeli bulldozer operator explains:
"For three days, I just demolished non-stop. The whole area. Any house they fired from came down. And to knock it down, I tore down some other houses. [The Palestinians] were warned by loudspeakers to get out of the house before I come, but I gave no one a chance. I didn't wait. I didn't give just one [warning] push, and wait for them to come out. I would just ram the house with full power, to bring it down as fast as possible. I wanted to get to the other houses. To get as many as possible. ...I didn't give a damn about the Palestinians, but I didn't just ruin with no reason. It was all under orders.”
From an interview with a Cat' driver, who under orders of his Israeli military superiors, operated a giant Caterpillar D-9L bulldozer and helped make 4,000 camp residents homeless in Jenin refugee camp, April 2000. The interview below was published in Yediot Aharonot, the Israeli daily with the widest circulation, on May 31, 2002.
According the United Nations, as of May 2003, a total of 12,000 Palestinians have been had their homes demolished since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000. This number has no doubt risen drastically since then, as one military incursion in Rafah, Gaza alone left over 1,000 without their homes, and this was accomplished in just 3 days, in October 2003.
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) estimates that some 27,000 Palestinian structures have been demolished since 1967. 12,000 since 2000, after the "Oslo Accords" were signed at the White House.