On March 16, 2003, an Israel Defence Forces bulldozer was demolishing houses in the Rafah refugee camp in Palestine. Seven western Palestinian solidarity activists were, through means of non-violent intervention, trying to disrupt the work of the IDF and prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes. What exactly happened that day is unclear (and the subject of many investigations) but whatever the particulars an American activist, Rachel Corrie, was run over and killed by an American-made armoured Caterpiller D9 bulldozer.
Her name has since become synonymous with the efforts to isolate the state of Israel and end the occupation of Palestine. Ships attempting to run the blockade of Gaza have borne her name, plays have been written about her and documentaries have recounted her story. Since her death, Rachel Corrie’s parents have taken up her activism and, most recently, launched a suit against the Israel Defence Forces asking for a nominal $1 in damages.
Despite the low dollar figure associated with the trial, it has proven to be tremendously disruptive. Israeli press is reporting that Caterpillar is refusing to deliver $50 million worth of bulldozers to the IDF while the trial is in progress. Caterpillar has long been the target of various Palestinian solidarity activists. Many, including Corrie’s parents, have demanded that the company stop its shipments to the IDF.
To some activists, this is a sign that the arguments used to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign are gaining widespread traction. As Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace wrote, “We take this as an indirect admission by the company that these bulldozers are being used to violate human rights and to violate the law.”