Campaign of the Month: Stop CATerpillar


For the last four years, activists and socially responsible investors have targeted the annual Caterpillar shareholder meeting in downtown Chicago to attempt to hold the company accountable for human rights abuses and war crimes committed with their equipment. The campaign has been successful in educating about the illegal and unjust uses of CAT equipment and putting pressure on the company to change its business practices. Every year, the shareholder meeting is dominated by activists and investors questioning the President and Board of Directors and urging them to take action. Every year, the sidewalk outside the meeting is crowded with protesters decrying CAT's practices and urging the company to take action.

Cat and the occupation

The Caterpillar Corporation's machinery is directly implicated in grave abuses of human rights and humanitarian law by the Israeli army;

The Israeli army has used Caterpillar equipment to uproot hundreds of thousands of olive trees as well as orchards of dates, prunes, lemons and oranges, causing widespread economic hardship and environmental degradation in rural areas of Palestine.

Since 1967, the Israeli army has used Caterpillar equipment, including specially modified D9 and D10 bulldozers to destroy over 12,000 houses in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, leaving tens of thousands of men, women and children homeless.

Since September 2000, the Israeli army has used Caterpillar equipment to destroy more than 3,000 homes, hundreds of public buildings and private commercial properties and vast areas of agricultural land.

Home demolitions are usually carried out without warning, often at night, and the occupants are forcibly evicted with no time to salvage their belongings. Often the only warning is the rumbling of the Israeli army's US-made Caterpillar bulldozers beginning to tear down the walls of their homes.

The Israeli army has continued bulldozing homes even when notified that residents were still inside the targeted homes.

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in such instances, such as Nabila al-Shu'bi, who was seven-months pregnant, as well as her three young children and four additional members of her family, left to die under the rubble of their Nablus home when it was bulldozed on April 6, 2002.

On March 16 2003, 23-year-old US peace activist Rachel Corrie was murdered by Israeli soldiers driving a Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer, while she was standing in non-violent protest of a home demolition in Rafah.

All these home demolitions and civilian deaths are illegal under international law, specifically violating the Hague Regulation of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention;

The Israeli army uses Caterpillar bulldozers to build a separation wall with significant portions of it inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The International Court of Justice considered the construction of such a wall to be contrary to international law-specifically violating the Hague Regulation of 1907; the Fourth Geneva Convention; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

The sale of Caterpillar bulldozers to the Israeli army is carried through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program and is in violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, U.S. Public Law 90-829, which prohibits the use of U.S. weapons against civilians and for anything outside of "internal security" or "legitimate self-defense".

The sale of the Caterpillar bulldozer to the Israeli army contravenes the United Nations' Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, which stipulate that transnational corporations "shall not engage in nor benefit" from war crimes or other violations of human rights and humanitarian law (article C3); and that transnational corporations "shall refrain from actions which obstruct or impede" the realization of basic human rights, such as the right to development, adequate food and drinking water, adequate housing, and the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (articles E11 and E12).

Caterpillar's involvement in the above-described abuses has attracted the attention of the United Nations and leading human rights organizations.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has written to Caterpillar CEO James Owens that "allowing the delivery of your. . . bulldozers to the Israeli army. . . in the certain knowledge that they are being used for such action, might involve complicity or acceptance on the part of your company to actual and potential violations of human rights...";

All of the facts described above are a matter of public knowledge.

The sale of the Caterpillar bulldozer to the Israeli army contradicts Caterpillar's own Code of Worldwide Business Conduct, which states that "Caterpillar accepts the responsibilities of global citizenship" and recognizes that Caterpillar's "commitment to financial success must also take into account social, economic, political, and environmental priorities".

Spokespeople for Caterpillar, Inc. have acknowledged that Caterpillar is aware of the Israeli army's use of Caterpillar equipment to destroy civilian homes, infrastructure and agricultural resources but Caterpillar has, nevertheless, refused either to condemn these practices or to take actions necessary to halt the sale or transfer of Caterpillar equipment to the Israeli army.

Stop Cat calls for:

  • Caterpillar to stop selling bulldozers to Israel until Israel stops using these machines to destroy Palestinian lives and livelihoods in contravention of human rights and humanitarian law;
  • Caterpillar to establish transparent and credible mechanisms for independent monitoring and verification, with the assistance of human rights ngos, to establish when these conditions are met;
  • Caterpillar to adopt a code of conduct which complies with the UN Human Rights Norms for Business and ensures the application of Article 11, which states that Trans National Corporations and other business enterprises should take stringent measures to prevent any products or services they produce or supply from being used to commit violations of international human rights or humanitarian law.
  • Civil and human rights activists, faith-based organizations, peace activists, Arab-American organizations, Jewish groups, students, and others who promote peace and justice in Israel and Palestine to join us in our efforts.

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