Middle East

Israel: Road Map or Bulldozer Map?

Israeli security forces secure the site of a bulldozer attack on King David Street on July 22 in Jerusalem, Israel. The bulldozer driver was shot dead by an Israeli after he attacked two cars with the vehicle, injuring as many as seven people, police said. The incident appeared to be a copycat of the one on July 2, when a Palestinian in Jerusalem killed three people and wounded 30 others when he rammed a bulldozer into a bus and cars on a busy street before being shot dead. (Photo: Uriel Sinai / Getty Images)

Palestinian journalists and writers seem to have found it difficult to address the current trend of bulldozer attacks in Israel. The piece of construction equipment appears to have joined our national conflict as a new weapon in the hands of Palestinians working inside Israel.

I see this astonishment, however, as something that Palestinian writers have picked up from the Israeli media. This is perhaps understandable, since the subject of bulldozer attacks has no precedent, and it is not an easy subject to approach. The response of Palestinian newspapers, then, has been to tackle the issue from a purely journalistic perspective, and most journalists are still dazzled at what is happening.

Chief Editor of the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Hafidh Al-Barghouthi, however, seems to have been able to digest the phenomenon. In his paper he is calling the trend a "Bulldozers' war." The crux of the bulldozer issue is complicated, and what the machine represents to Palestinians may explain why their use in attacks is so astonishing and yet comprehensible.

To the outsider, reflected Al-Barghouthi, bulldozers are machines used to dig; they are used in construction, for paving streets, to dig quarries and to irrigate farms. They are a useful, harmless tool.

In the Palestinian context, however, they take on a different meaning.

Bulldozers are a machine used to build Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. They are used to dig up fields and confiscate them from Palestinian farmers. Palestinians have seen bulldozers tear up ancient olive trees; they have seen them tear down their homes. The bulldozer was the tool used by Israeli forces to kill United States solidarity activist and student Rachel Corrie. Rachel was killed by a D9 Caterpillar bulldozer in March of 2000. The machine had been shipped to Israel by manufacturers in her own country.

For Palestinians, says Al-Barghouthi, bulldozers are tools of the occupation. They are used for destruction and not for construction.

Take out the tools of this occupation, says Al-Barghouthi, and so too disappear the tools of destruction. This, he says, rings true both for the destruction of Palestinian lands, and for the loss of Israeli lives. "The occupation," he says, "is responsible, so let them withdraw and take away their bulldozers." With the machines and what they represent gone, he continues, "There will eventually be no more victims of bulldozers whether they are foreign solidarity activists, Israelis, or Palestinians."

"All of the people harmed by these bulldozers, be their names Corrie, Cohen or Kamal," says Al-Barghouthi, "are humans" who deserve not to be undone by tools meant to advance humanity.

There are people on both sides who understand that all life has value. This is evidenced by the treatment of the body of 22-year-old Ghassan Abu Teir, the driver of the bulldozer in the July 22 attack. A group of mostly orthodox Jews who volunteer for the ZAKA (Zihuy Korbanot Ason, translated as "Disaster Victim Identification") collected Abu Tier's body, and any parts of the man's body that were detached from him during the incident. In both Orthodox Judaism and Islam, having a complete body to bury is important. The ZAKA is thus seen as a service to families of Jews killed in such accidents, as well as Palestinians.

While many people would see four Rabbi's carrying the body of Abu Teir as inhuman, says Al-Barghouthi, it is actually a service of respect for human life.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seems to agree, and condemned the killing of civilians anywhere and under any circumstances after news of the second bulldozer attack. Such respectful actions seem to be forgotten these days, as plans for a respectful peace are quickly abandoned in favor of the "bulldozer plan."

All sides seem to have left the idea of the Road Map, and are taking the physical tools of occupation and turning them into weapons. Al-Barghouthi calls this the "bulldozer plan." He recalled the recent story of Israeli settlers launching homemade projectiles at towns in northern Nablus. This action mirrored the use of homemade projectiles launched out of Gaza, sometimes made out of the broken sewer pipes that spill sewage onto city streets.

These actions are symbolic, thinks Al-Barghouthi, taking those things around you that represent occupation and using them against a perceived enemy. "God only knows what the future tools of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be," says Al-Barghouthi, "will people use hand blenders, toasters, or pressure cookers?" He wonders what will happen when people go far enough down this "bulldozer plan" path. "What will Israeli security do then?" he asks, and what will people say when they ask what happened to the Road Map plan?

Nasser Lahham is the chief editor for Ma'an News Agency. This article from the Ma'an News Agency is distributed by the Common Ground News Service.

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