Samah Jabr: Bulldozer Terrorism
- Bulldozer "Terrorism:" It depends on who's on top and who's underneath
By Samah Jabr
In a span of less than three weeks, two Palestinians used bulldozers
in rampages against cars and people in Jerusalem. In the first
incident, Hussam Duwiyat killed two men and a woman, and injured
many, after he rammed a bulldozer into a packed commuter bus on Jaffe
Street on July 2. According to reports, Duwiyat was a resident of
Arab East Jerusalem and worked at a building site near the scene. His
Jewish wife has told the press that he suffers from drug-induced
psychosis, but that he has no associations with nationalist or
In the second incident, Ghassan Abu Teir, 23, from the Jerusalem
village Umm Touba, went on a rampage in central Jerusalem on July 22
near the King David Hotel, where Sen. Barack Obama was staying during
his "election campaign" trip to Israel. Obama's statement before the
annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC) calling for a united Jerusalem has angered Palestinians,
especially Jerusalemites. Nevertheless, Abu Teir's family reports
that the incident was an accident, that he lost control of the brakes
and was shot only because of the previous bulldozer attack.
Palestinians remember the Israeli truck driver who killed four
Palestinian workers in the Gaza Strip in December 1987. That accident
which to this day Palestinians are convinced was intentionalsparked
the first intifada.
No matter how startling, these recent acts pale in comparison to what
Israel has done with its bulldozers.
With each passing day, more of Arab East Jerusalem vanishes as
bulldozers clear the land for more Israeli settlements. Since the
November 2007 Annapolis conference, which was supposed to revive the
peace process, Israel has only accelerated its settlement building,
especially in Jerusalem; this despite more than a hundred meetings
between Israeli and Palestinian officials holding "peace
Bulldozers also represent the hundreds of Palestinian villages
levelled and thousands of homes demolished in Gaza, the West Bank and
Jerusalem in Israel's relentless violation of international law. In
2004 alone Israel flattened 2,243 houses in Gaza and the West Bank,
leaving some 14,000 Palestinians homeless. Bulldozing Palestinian
homes under the pretext that the owners lacked building permits is
common practice in Jerusalem.
Bulldozers also have created massive destruction in the path of
Israel's Separation Wall snaking across occupied Palestine. Their
Israeli operators have used them to uproot hundreds of thousands of
olive, citrus and other fruit trees, representing the livelihood of
Palestinian farmers; destroy hundreds of wells and agricultural
storehouses; and tear up roads and block thousands of others with
concrete and earthen mounds.
A Cowboy on a Bulldozer
In a shocking account published in the May 31, 2001 edition of Yediot
Aharonot, Moshe Nissim, who had been suspended from his job as a
senior inspector in the Jerusalem municipality on suspicion of having
accepted bribes from contractors and other business owners, recounted
his role in the attack on the Jenin refugee camp. Drunk and
shirtless, he drove a massive D-9 army bulldozer on an officially
"I didn't even know how to operate the D-9," Nissim recalled. "Within
two hours, they [Israeli soldiers] taught me to drive forward, and
clear a flat surface. I tied the `Beitar' football team flag to the
back of the bulldozer and told them: `Move away, let me work.' They
knew I had no fear, that I don't give a damn
"For 75 hours, with no break, I just erased and erased, I kept
drinking whisky to fight off fatigue. Over the loudspeaker, they were
told to leave their houses before I destroyed them. But I did not
give a chance to anyone. I did not wait. I did not touch the house
and wait for them to come out. I would simply give the house a
massive blow so that it would collapse as quickly as possible in
order to get to other houses. To do a lot.
"I found joy with every house that came down, because I knew they
didn't mind dying, but they cared for their homes. If you knocked
down a house, you buried 40 or 50 people for generations. If I am
sorry for anything, it is for not tearing the whole camp down."
Crushed underneath a Bulldozer
A year later, in March 2003, 23-year-old American peace activist
Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an American-made Caterpillar
bulldozer as she tried to prevent the Israeli army from destroying
the Gaza Strip home of Palestinian pharmacist Samir Nasrallah.
International activists who accompanied her claim that the Israeli
soldier driving the bulldozer deliberately ran over Corrie twice,
advancing and reversing, as she stood unarmed in front of the home.
A Political Bulldozer
"Bulldozer" is also the nickname Israel's belligerent former Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon, who left 20,000 deaths in his 1982 march to
and siege of Beirut. An Israeli commission of inquiry found then-
Defense Minister Sharon indirectly responsible for the massacre at
Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
A decade earlier, as head of the IDF Southern Command, Sharon ordered
the bulldozing of hundreds of Palestinian homes in order to carve a
wide, straight path for Israeli troops and their heavy armored
vehicles to move easily through Gaza's Beach refugee camp. After
throwing everyone's belongings into the street, Sharon's troops
brought in their bulldozers and began flattening the street, beating
and killing anyone who dared protest. That street is now known as
In August 1971 alone, soldiers under Sharon's command destroyed some
2,000 homes in the Gaza Strip, uprooting 16,000 people for the second
time in their lives.
In both Jerusalem incidents of Palestinian's bulldozers, operators
were immediately stopped with several bullets to their heads by a
bypassing officer and a civilian.
Nissim was considered the most devoted and brave; certainly the most
destructive operator. After the publication of his testemonyand in
spite of itthe unit to which the man belongs received from the army
commander an official citation for outstanding service. Not
surprising from a system and an army that selects a drunken man on
this mission of destruction!
In June of 2003, a military investigation by the Israel Defense
Forces Judge Advocate's Office concluded that the woman's death was
accidental. "The driver at no point saw or heard Corrie."
An Israeli commission of inquiry investigated the massacre at Sabra
and Shatilla and in February 1983 publicly released its findings:
Ariel Sharon was responsible for the massacre. On 14 February 1983,
he was relieved of his duties as defence minister, to come back to
the political scene as prime minister several years later to be the
saviour of Israel.
Daily crimes perpetrated by bulldozers go unheeded and unprotested;
one can think of many, Israelis that regularly drive over homes and
schools and necks of Palestinians and go unpunished. It only becomes
terrorism when the perpetrator is a Palestinian or the victim is a
While Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency, has yet to officially
rule that the attacks were politically motivated, Israeli authorities
are keen to crack down on East Jerusalem residents: Jerusalem
witnesses the intensive presence of police and armed citizens, and
officials expedite procedures that would authorize punitive measures,
such as razing the perpetrator's family home, expelling the families
of Palestinians involved in attacks against Israelis and revoking the
Israeli identity cards of their immediate relatives.
A Palestinian goes on a rampage on Israelis, is shot dead, labeled a
terrorist and his entire family is punished while an Israeli soldier
who shot a blindfolded, handcuffed, unarmed Palestinian at point-
blank range goes free! Is there any wonder why people kill each other
in this region?
The two bulldozer incidents follow an attack in West Jerusalem in
which a Jerusalemite gunman killed eight students in a religious
school in March. It seems that no acts of deterrence and punitive
tools are effective in stopping someone who decides to give up his
life in protest to the occupation.
Profound injustice allows us to foresee more attacks. Hussam and
Ghassan may have followers; and there are no security measures or
means to counter the Palestinian reaction to Israel's exploitation of
power, except by making peace and recognizing the national and human
rights of the Palestinians to pave the way for a different future
that reflects inclusion, tolerance and accommodation in which all the
citizens of this land use their capacities, opportunities and
resources, including their bulldozers, to build a better world.
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