Rev. Catherine Alder’s letter to Portland City Council

By: Rev. Catherine Alder

Dear Portland City Council,

      I have traveled to Palestine/Israel repeatedly and have seen the destruction caused by the use of the D9’s made by Caterpillar. Caterpillar D9’s are not the cute little bulldozers in the farm fields. They are two-stories tall war machines and destroy Palestinian homes, orchards, water infrastructure, and fields.

     I personally have seen the destruction of homes caused by Caterpillar. I have witnessed the growth over the years of the so-called “Security Fence” which is a huge wall built on Palestinian land by destroying Palestinian homes and land with Caterpillar bulldozers. That Wall blocks families from schools, hospitals, farmland, holy land sites, family and former neighbors. 

    I have witnessed the destruction in Gaza of Palestinian homes while people run to grab their things as a Cat D9 aims at their home.

    Now we have Caterpillar in use destroying sacred land at Standing Rock, South Dakota, once again violating human rights.

Three stories to illustrate:

  1. Daoud Nassar is a Palestinian Christian living in Beit Sahour, the town next to Bethlehem. He is one of the most gentle Christians I know. He invites settlers into his cave, the only place he is allowed to have as a home on his own land. He says to his settler neighbors, “Come in. Come in, but leave your guns outside.” He runs a camp on his land for children to learn nonviolence. People come from around the world to plant trees in this nonviolent camp called Tent of Nations.  His olive tree and fruit orchards have been in the family for generations dating back beyond the Ottoman Empire. Recently, Israel slapped a sign on his property stating that this land now belongs to Israel. While this dispute was in court, and while he was visiting friends in Seattle, WA., Caterpillar bulldozers were used to destroy 1,500 of his trees, ripe for harvest. This was a huge loss of income. Four illegal settlements (according to international law) grow now around his land as more Palestinian homes and land are bulldozed by Caterpillar to create them.
  2. The second story: I met with a family in Bethlehem. The teenage daughter pointed out her window at a fence snaking behind the apartment building where the family lives. She said, “We used to play and have picnics on that land which is ours across that fence. Now it is guarded by soldiers and we cannot farm it or picnic on it.”  Caterpillar had been used to make a path to build that fence cutting off that family from their land. That story is one of thousands of Palestinians’ stories that are similar. 
  3. The third story:  Caterpillar was used to demolish a doctor’s family home in Gaza. Our own American citizen, Rachel Corrie, was standing in front of that home and was bulldozed to death as the Cat D9 ran over her. There is a video of her being seen by the soldier as he advanced the Cat D9 and did not stop. This is not an isolated incident as many lives have been lost as people try to protect their homes and property. 

      Caterpillar meets 6 of the 7 criteria to divest laid out by the SRIC. You will be in very good company if you choose to do so.  There are a growing number of religious denominations which have divested from Caterpillar including the United Church of Christ, of which I am a member and pastor. 

I urge you to divest from Caterpillar and place it on a Do Not Buy list for its numerous human rights violations.

     Peace,

     Rev. Catherine Alder