Caterpillar resolution fails

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Opponents of sales of Caterpillar bulldozers to the Israeli military failed in a resolution they hoped would move the company toward “greater accountability.” Howard Lenow of Jewish Voice for Peace said a resolution on the 14 of June to separate the positions of CEO and chairman of the board — which opponents of sales to Israel hoped would make company management more amenable to their position — received 27 percent support at a Caterpillar shareholder meeting in Chicago. Caterpillar last year rejected a resolution to stop selling bulldozers to the Israeli military. The machines have been used to demolish Palestinian structures that the Israeli army says house terrorists or conceal the entrances to weapon-smuggling tunnels, and to clear land for Israel’s West Bank security fence. They also are believed to have been used in the destruction of Israel’s Gaza Strip settlements last summer.

Activists scold Caterpillar for Middle East sales

Middle East peace activists stepped up their criticism of Caterpillar Inc.'s sales of bulldozers and other equipment that they say are used by the Israeli military to destroy the homes of Palestinians. About two dozen people with signs picketed outside the Northern Trust Bank in Chicago where the Peoria-based equipment maker conducted its annual shareholder meeting in Chicago.

Inside the meeting, several shareholders took turns urging Cat CEO and Chairman James Owens to cease equipment sales to the government of Israel. You have choices. When we find that our equipment is being used to destroy human rights and somebody's home you can say,No, we don't need to do that, said Craig Corrie, the father of Rachel Corrie, who was struck and killed by a Cat-built bulldozer in 2003 while attempting to block the demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza by the Israeli military. In the aftermath of Ms. Corrie's death, a coalition of religious groupsand Middle East peace organization took its fight to Caterpillar,arguing that the company's equipment enables Israel to carry out its brutal occupation the Palestinians.

Members of the coalition that own shares of Cat stock, who were more vociferous and organized than in past years, offered a proposal at the meeting to require the CEO and chairman's titles be held by separate board members. Supporters said separating the two titles would allow the chairman to focus more on ethical and corporate policy issues, like equipment sales to Israel. Cat's board urged shareholders to reject the proposal, which was turned down by 62% of the shareholders voting on it. Mr. Owens repeatedly stressed that he and other board members are aware that strife and human suffering occurring in the Middle East, but maintained Cat cannot end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It's a terrible conflict. As parents and grandparents we hate to see the carnage, he said.We don't believe we're capable of resolving the problem.

Mr. Owens explained that the federal government purchases Caterpillar construction equipment and then distributes it to Israel, the Palestinians and Egypt as part of a board aid package to those countries that's been in place for decades. He added that Cat equipment is used widely throughout the Middle East for the civilian construction projects.

The protestors said the company should simply quit participating in aid programs where construction equipment ends up in the hands of the Israeli military. Nobody is asking Caterpillar to solve the Middle East conflict,said Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace in San Francisco. Just check what's happening with your own equipment.

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