BULLDOZERS HURT CHANCES FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE
OAKLAND, Calif., Sept. 25 (AScribe Newswire) — As the Bush Administration moves to cut financing for Israel’s settlements, the largest grassroots Jewish peace group in the U.S. announced today that it is targeting Illinois-based Caterpillar Corporation for its role in diminishing the chances for Middle East peace. Caterpillar has knowingly allowed its bulldozers to be used by the Israeli military for the demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes, settlement construction, and the building of Israel’s Wall.
Jewish Voice for Peace and its partner organizations — the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax Aid to Israel Now), and the Center for Economic and Social Rights — launched a variety of efforts to pressure the company, including Internet activism, shareholder resolutions, and protests. They announced that today they were asking over 30,000 sympathetic Americans to send a letter to Caterpillar demanding that it halt sales to the Israeli military. Jewish Voice for Peace is also developing a shareholder resolution that it intends to introduce for a vote at Caterpillar’s 2004 stockholders meeting.
Ninety-five percent of home demolitions occur for minor permit violations, while Israelis who build without permits rarely have their homes demolished. According to Amnesty International, “By targeting Palestinians for house demolitions and denial of building permits, the Israeli government has violated its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law which it has promised to uphold.” Caterpillar bulldozers have also been used in clear violation of the U.S.-backed Roadmap, which states that the “(Government of Israel) takes no actions undermining trust, including … confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property…” Since 1967, Caterpillar bulldozers have been used by the Israeli military to make over 50,000 Palestinian civilians homeless, demolishing homes to pave the way for Israeli settlements and Israel’s Wall.
Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions said of the Caterpillar bulldozers, “These 60-ton behemoths are no ordinary bulldozers. The latest armored models that Israel is using have blades up to 11 feet tall, and are designed to demolish homes while keeping the driver safe and comfortable in an air-conditioned cab.”
Bulldozers made by Caterpillar have made headlines over the past 18 months. The machines have been used to destroy Palestinian property that falls along the line where Israel is building the Wall, the cost of which the Bush administration wants to deduct from loan guarantees to Israel. In March 2003, Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip, died after being crushed by a D9 bulldozer. And in the spring of 2002, Caterpillar bulldozers were used by Israeli soldiers in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. According to Human Rights Watch, the bulldozers flattened 140 homes, most of them multi-family dwellings, and left another 200 severely damaged, rendering 4,000 people homeless.
The destruction in Jenin represents a long-standing policy of the Israeli government which, since 1967, has destroyed close to 9,000 Palestinian homes, leaving 50,000 people homeless, and uprooted hundreds of thousands of trees. These actions by the Israeli military have devastated the infrastructure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. According to the European Union, at the end of 2002 unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was over 40 percent and more that 60 percent of the population was below the poverty line of two dollars a day.
“The attention that Caterpillar’s equipment has been getting is a public relations nightmare — certainly not something it would want to put in its annual report,” said Liat Weingart of Jewish Voice for Peace. The groups claim that by selling to the Israeli military, the heavy-equipment manufacturer supports human rights abuses. “Turning a blind eye to the end use of its equipment is inconsistent with Caterpillar’s Code of Worldwide Business Conduct,” said Weingart. The Code commits the corporation to “accept the responsibilities of global citizenship” and “take into account social priorities.”
Jewish Voice for Peace has launched a campaign website (www.catdestroyshomes.org) which features news, photographs, action alerts, and background information.