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Symbols of an Intractable Conflict

Ten years ago today activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli Defence Force bulldozer while attempting to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes.

This post isn’t intended to prothlesize for either side or to talk with any authority about a complex conflict in a part of the world that I know very little about, all I wanted to remark on is the strange power of symbols to stand in for complicated issues, and the way the mind selects not always the most obvious, commonplace image for this purpose.

For me, images of the Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozers used by the Israeli Defence Force have come in a strange way to symbolise the conflict and its two sides more than any photograph of stone throwing children, Merkava tanks or even the much photographed wall. The armoured bulldozers, squat, incomprehensible monstrosities, seem to symbolise the intractability, the slow but seemingly unstoppable destruction, the apparent non-negotiability and perhaps above all the foreign influences that lie economically, politically and historically behind both sides in the conflict.

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