Caterpillar under Fire for Human Rights Abuses for Sixth Year in a Row

Chicago, IL (June 3) — For the sixth year in a row, members of Jewish, Christian, and human rights organizations will be present at Caterpillar, Inc.’s annual shareholder meeting to demand that Caterpillar end its complicity with violations of human rights and international law in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.

Concerned shareholders will urge Caterpillar shareholders to vote yes on proposition #5.  This shareholder resolution calls for a review of Caterpillar sales to militaries with poor human rights records, including Israel.  The resolution is sponsored by an interfaith coalition including Jewish Voice for Peace, the Sisters of Loretto, the Mercy Investment Program, and over 10 additional Catholic organizations.  Jewish Voice for Peace will personally deliver thousands of letters from Jews and allies to the Caterpillar Board of Directors.  These shareholders will be supported outside by a public gathering calling on Caterpillar to end sales to governments with patterns of using CAT equipment to violate international law.  This effort is organized in part by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and local groups, Chicagoans Against Apartheid in Palestine and the Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East.  Events are also planned for June 10th at Caterpillar dealerships across the country.

According to Lynn Pollack of the Chicago chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, “Caterpillar claims that selling military equipment to Israel and other countries amounts to only 0.06% of its sales.  Too many homes, trees, and lives in Palestine have paid dearly for that meager 0.06%.  It is high time for Caterpillar to be less greedy and more ethical.”

The dissent inside and outside of the Caterpillar shareholder meeting comes in the midst of a growing movement to divest from Caterpillar until it ends its material support for Israel’s military occupation and apartheid practices.  Caterpillar equipment, including armored and weaponized D-9 bulldozers, are used by the Israeli military to destroy Palestinian homes, lay waste to thousands of acres of Palestinian agricultural land, and build the Israeli separation wall, which was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.  The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates that 24,145 houses have been demolished in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza since 1967.  Most recently, Caterpillar equipment was used to destroy houses during the Israeli assault on Gaza in December-January.  Additionally, the Israeli military has killed dozens of people using Caterpillar equipment, including American peace activist Rachel Corrie of Olympia, Washington.

The movement to hold Caterpillar accountable has received a recent boost from decisions by the Church of England and Hampshire College to divest.  These institutions held a combined total of more than $3 million in Caterpillar stock before their decisions to divest in December 2008 and February 2009, respectively.  More recently, a group of 20 Israeli human rights organizations have petitioned the Norwegian government to divest its pension fund from a list of companies providing support for Israel’s military occupation, including Caterpillar.

Ilana Rossoff, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at Hampshire College, comments that “It is time that Caterpillar investors wake up to the reality that people will not stand for continued support for occupation.  Since the recent war on Gaza, the need for action against corporations providing services to perpetuate the brutal occupations of the West Bank and Gaza has become ever more urgent and Hampshire’s recent divestment has shown that colleges, universities, and municipalities will take action in the name of human rights”

The pressure on Caterpillar is part of a larger effort to promote accountability for companies that profit from Israel’s military occupation.  Human rights groups, students, and faith organizations have joined forces to put pressure on these companies.  The US Campaign and its member organizations plan to continue pressuring Caterpillar by organizing divestment efforts in cities, campuses, and churches across the country.

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a national coalition of more than 280 organizations facilitating responsible U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine and responsible consumer choices to support human rights, international law, and equality for all Israelis and Palestinians.   For more information about the US Campaign, please click here.