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The Very Destructive Caterpillar

I don’t know if Husam Dwayat was aware of the symbolism in his choice of weapon when he murdered three Israelis and injured scores more in Jerusalem yesterday.

The front-loader with which Dwayat rammed several cars and buses before he was shot dead was a Caterpillar. Palestinian sympathizers and human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have for several years been waging a campaign against the US construction equipment maker, on the grounds that it builds bulldozers which are used by the Israeli Defense Forces to demolish Palestinian homes.

Israel has a policy of destroying the houses of suicide bombers and other terrorists as a deterrent, reasoning that even if a would-be martyr cares nothing for his own life, he might think twice about causing his family to be made homeless. It also uses earthmovers to demolish buildings used by terrorists as firing positions, to destroy booby-traps and to fill in tunnels used for smuggling weapons — although you wouldn’t learn any of that from the New York Timesreport on yesterday’s attack:

Caterpillar equipment has a special resonance among Palestinians. Human rights activists have lobbied the company to stop selling its heavy vehicles to the Israeli military out of concern that they have been used to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot orchards and construct Jewish settlements in occupied land.

Ah the orchards! What a masterstroke of evocation. Forget about the sniper nests and the tunnels used by terrorists to smuggle in their rockets and to kidnap and kill Israeli soldiers: think about the orange growers.

If you think that paragraph, which comes at the end of the report (which was buried at the bottom of the front page of the Times‘ website), has the faint whiff of justification about it, then what about this, which comes less than 100 words into the story, and before the writer even bothers to note that two of the dead identified at that point were women:

The police said that they were treating the incident as a terrorist attack and that the driver, about 30 years old, was a resident of Sur Baher, an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem that was conquered, then annexed, by Israel after the 1967 war.

The history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is well-documented, and there’s a time and place for discussing it — God knows the third paragraph of a story about the cold-blooded murder of three innocent women isn’t it. But then the Times doesn’t make much secret of its antipathy towards Israel these days, or of its enthusiasm for “resistance” movements of all stripes.

As for the Caterpillar angle, I’d be surprised if Dwayat was in fact aware of the symbolism. After all, the campaign against the company is a product of the international coalition of pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel organizations that includes human rights groups, lawyers and media folk, rather than a grassroots affair.

Most famously — or infamously — a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer ran over and killed the 23-year-old American Rachel Corrie in Gaza in 2003, after she and other activists from the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement ignored requests to leave an area in which the Israeli army was operating. The ISM claimed Corrie was “murdered” while trying to protect Palestinian homes. The IDF says its troops were clearing weapons-smuggling infrastructure, and that there was no way the driver of the D9 could have seen her.

Corrie’s family and others have tried to sue Caterpillar, thus far without success, and since her death she has become a hero of the Palestinian “resistance,” lionized by, among others, the pro-Palestinian BBC. A foundation for peace and justice has been set up in her name, although missing from its olive branch-adorned website is the notorious photo of Corrie burning an American flag at a demonstration in Gaza.

The “special resonance” that Caterpillar vehicles apparently have among Palestinians certainly doesn’t prevent them from using the machines, as I pointed out in a blog post in March. Presumably they’re happy to use the best tool for the job, and leave the hand-wringing to their supporters around the world.

As I wrote then: “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.”

And now that a Palestinian has used a Caterpillar machine to murder innocent Israelis, maybe someone ought to tell Human Rights Watch and the other organizations that have attempted to demonize the company.

Will they want to continue with their campaign if Caterpillar becomes a symbol of Palestinian terror, rather than of Palestinian victimhood?