Imagine waking up one morning to the sound of loud banging on your front door. You stumble through a room crowded with sleeping children only to find three soldiers wielding automatic weapons outside the door. They notify you that your house is about to be demolished and you have 20 minutes to gather your children and all the belongings you intend to keep. “What the hell is going on?” you protest. The response comes in the form of a rifle butt to your jaw. You or one of your family members is suspected of participating in “terrorist” activities. Your mind races for an explanation, but there’s no time for that. Your house and all its contents are about to become rubble, and you and your family are about to become homeless.
Now anyone reading this may ask themselves, “Could such a horrifying thing happen to me here in beautiful Santa Barbara, Calif.?” Well, kids, fortunately no, at least for the time being. So where could such a thing occur? You guessed it: Israel and Palestine. The Israeli military follows a policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians or their family members that it suspects of carrying out attacks against Israelis. This is not only amoral but also illegal under international law. As Jeff Halper, coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions points out, “When an entire family is punished for the suspected deeds of one of its members, this is collective punishment. Both violate the essence of both Israeli civil law and international humanitarian law.”
But what about security? Don’t these demolitions prevent others from going out and blowing themselves up in future terror attacks? No, in fact they have the opposite effect. Demolitions only sow the seeds of more violence. Despite the belief that it is the irrational tendency of the religious Muslim, naturally driven to extremism, suicide bombing is the politics of desperation. What more does a young Palestinian have to lose once he has lost his historic homeland, any chance of seeing a viable peace settlement, dealing with a brutal occupation by a colonial power who seeks to drive him off his land and finally has seen his entire family rendered homeless? Although the killing of innocent civilians is always wrong, the collective punishment policy of the Israeli leadership serves to feed the cycle of violence and ensure that suicide bombings continue.
Now to make all of this even more relevant to us Americans, let’s take a minute to look into the details of this atrocity. This might not seem like revealing news to some of you. But did you know that Caterpillar, an American company, is selling these bulldozers to Israel, knowing full well that Israel is using these products in collective punishment?
Since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, Israel has destroyed the homes of 12,737 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip using bulldozers manufactured by Caterpillar. Caterpillar has also been deployed by Israel to uproot Palestinian olive trees and is currently constructing a massive wall and fence that will seize about 40 percent of the West Bank. What is even more appalling is that we, as U.S. taxpayers, are actually funding all this naughtiness. The U.S. government provides the funds necessary for Israel to buy these bulldozers, which not surprisingly are made by an American corporation.
American support for this sort of illegal and inhumane activity not only violates the terms of Congress, forbidding the sale of weaponry to countries that partake in illegal behavior, but it also exacerbates the conflict and drags the U.S. deeper into a situation that is becoming increasingly seen as one of the main issues concerning a growing distrust of the United States.
Come over to the MultiCultural Center Theater on Wednesday, April 28, to learn more about house demolitions and see documentary footage.
Ali Kattan-Wright is a senior global studies major.