Caterpillar and Corporate Accountability
Moral choice April 22, 2008. Jewish Voice for Peace welcomes the decision of the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) of the United Methodist Church to sit down at the table with Caterpillar to discuss the use of the corporation's armored bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot trees, and build illegal settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. We are also encouraged by the words of Jim Winker, GBCS' General Secretary,
We encourage the delegates of the United Methodist Church, meeting at its quadrennial convention in Fort Worth, TX, to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. In a letter from Caterpillar to Mr. Winkler, the corporation acknowledged its responsibility "to encourage the constructive use of its products." The corporation further declared that it does not "condone the illegal or immoral use of any Caterpillar equipment." In the same letter, Caterpillar hides behind a misleading interpretation of U.S. anti-boycott laws. These laws apply only to boycotts demanded by foreign countries. These laws pose no risk that Caterpillar will violate them by responding appropriately to pressure by U.S. churches, U.S. citizens, or U.S. pressure groups such as JVP or the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Nor do the U.S. anti-boycott laws prohibit or attempt to limit in any way the endorsement or advocacy of such divestment policies by U.S. organizations, individuals, or groups. Such advocacy is protected free speech under the First Amendment.
The use of Caterpillar equipment to violate Palestinian human rights has been extensively documented in human rights reports (by Human Rights Watch, War on Want, Amnesty International and others) and has been conveyed to Caterpillar in different ways over the years: 5 annual shareholder resolutions, a letter from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a lawsuit on behalf of the family of activist Rachel Corrie and four Palestinian families whose homes were demolished By Caterpillar bulldozers, and countless street protests around the world. Caterpillar itself has acknowledged that it sells bulldozers under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program--in other words, it sells these bulldozers as weapons. It is time for caterpillar to show responsibility for its actions and to stop selling bulldozers to Israel until these gross human right violations end.