Caterpillar’s Head Still in the Sand!


The use of weaponized bulldozers manufactured by the Illinois-ased Caterpillar, Inc. (CAT), to demolish Palestinian homes and uproot Palestinian trees and orchards has killed dozens of Palestinians, mainly by the demolition of their homes while they are still in them.

Nabila sl-Shu’bi was seven months pregnant when she, her three young children and four additional members of her family were killed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF), demolishing the family home with a Caterpillar bulldozer, Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old-peace activist trying to protect a Palestinian home, was killed by a D9 Caterpillar bulldozer operated by a member of the IDF.  Her death garnered international attention and irrevocably linked Caterpillar to the demolition of homes in Palestine.

Since April 2004, when shareholders introduced a resolution at the annual meeting calling for Caterpillar to conduct an internal investigation to determine whether its sale of bulldozers to Israel violates Caterpillar’s code of conduct, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has particiated in an international campaign to publicly pressure Caterpillar’s shareholders into asking questions about the use of the company’s equipment in human rights violations.

In June 2007, JVP, the Sisters of Loreto, and the Sisters of Mercy, returned to the Caterpillar annual meeting, despite heavy security, a change of location, to a remote suburb, and new rules about speaking, to introduce a new resolution.  The resolution called for more corporate accountability and drew attention to Caterpillar’s profiting from Palestinian home demolitions.  Activists also managed to launch a protest in the proceedings, ending the meeting early and drawing media attention.

While the company has acknowledged that it is aware of the Israeli army’s use of CAT equipment to destroy civilian homes, infrastructure, and agricultural resources, Caterpillar has, nevertheless, refused either to condemn these practices or to take actions necessary to halt the sale or transfer of its equipment to the Israeli army.

Caterpillar, which expects 2007 sales to reach $44 billion worldwide, cannot keep its head buried in the sand forever.  In 2005 the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit for violations of international and state law on behalf of Rachel Corrie’s parents and four Palestinian families whose homes were bulldozed and who lost relatives during such demolitions.

Meanwhile, a growing list of churches is wrestling with the ethical implications of investing in corporations, including Capterpillar, that profit from the occupation of Palestinian lands.  And many activists continue to send letters of protest and to take to the streets with their anti-CAT message, in both the United States and in Europe.