April 14, 2005, New York, NY - In Manhattan yesterday, sixty human rights activists marked the International Day of Action Against Caterpillar by protesting outside of the Manhattan office of Caterpillar Board member Gail Fosler. Chanting and holding large photos of CAT bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes and of Rachel Corrie who was killed by a CAT bulldozer in Rafah, activists handed out hundreds of flyers to passersby and individuals leaving Fosler’s office building at 845 3rd Avenue. Fosler, who was attending the CAT shareholder meeting in Chicago, works as a Senior Vice President for The Conference Board in Manhattan.
Protests against Caterpillar’s support for Israeli human rights violations were held yesterday in over thirty cities around the world. The International Day of Action Against Caterpillar was organized in the US by Jewish Voice for Peace, The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and the Stop Caterpillar Coalition.
Like activists around the world, NYC activists are demanding that CAT end its support for Israeli human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories). Caterpillar equipment has been used by the Israeli army to destroy roads, orchards, greenhouses, agricultural land and the homes of over 50,000 Palestinians. The NYC protest was organized by the Palestine Activists Forum of New York (PAFNY) and endorsed by Jewish Voice for Peace, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, International Solidarity Movement (NYC), Jews Against the Occupation (NYC), Women of a Certain Age, Stop U.S. Funded Aid to Israel Now (SUSTAIN-NYC) and the International Socialist Organization.
Speaking on behalf of Jews Against the Occupation (JATO-NYC), Emmaia Gelman said, “CAT builds specialized machines with just two purposes — to maim and destroy, and to turn a handsome, if bloody, profit for CAT. CAT is to the occupation of Palestine what napalm factories were to the Vietnam war: a lucrative enterprise that yields profits now and useless apologies after the fact, too late for the dead, from those who have gotten fat on war. The people of Palestine and Israel who want peace instead of occupation, like the people of Iraq, are pitted against CEOs — some of whom are also politicians — whose business is outfitting armies for war. CAT’s board is made up of the cream of the American war machine: major corporate profiteers, a US miltary commander, a brilliant economist — Gail Fosler — for whom profits are real and people are unseen pawns. To CAT’s board we say: how much more money do you need? And to the shareholders: your profits come packed in the blood of Palestinians and Israelis, and there’s shame in that. You have the concrete power to create change. So do it!”
Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director for the Middle East/North Africa program at Human Rights Watch, told the New York City gathering, “In the past four years, the IDF has illegally demolished thousands of Palestinian homes — more than 2,500 in the Gaza Strip alone (http://hrw.org/reports/2004/rafah1004/). Most of the victims are innocent families who were punished because they lived in the wrong place at the wrong time. Massive armored bulldozers, 13 feet high and weighing 64 tons, crashed through their homes, often with no warning in the night, knocking down their shelters and property, causing homelessness, psychological trauma and sometimes loss of life. The bulldozers are built to military specifications. They have massive front ploughs and a blade in the back called “the ripper.” We believe Caterpillar should stop its sales of the D9 bulldozer to the IDF, along with parts and maintenance, so long as the bulldozers are used to commit human rights violations. Until then, Caterpillar is complicit in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
Another highlight of the protest was a play “Justice is Blind” performed by “World War III Arts & Action”. At the conclusion of the play, justice ultimately prevails with a character striking down a cardboard Caterpillar bulldozer.
NYC activists attempted to meet with Ms. Fosler on April 11th at her Manhattan office, but were told she was “unavailable.” They were able to speak with staff who work with Fosler yesterday as they left their office, and plan to try again to meet with Fosler during the coming week.
Bringing the protest to the boardroom
In Chicago yesterday, a shareholder resolution calling for Caterpillar to investigate whether their sale of bulldozers to Israel violates the CAT “good global citizen” code of conduct was defeated, receiving a 3% vote at the annual shareholder meeting.
The shareholder resolution was filed by Jewish Voice for Peace with the support of Sisters of Loretto, Mercy Investment Program, Sisters of Mercy, Maryknoll Sisters, and Sisters of St Francis of Philadelphia.
Jewish Voice for Peace member Sara Norman said: “Since shareholder resolutions are non-binding, our primary goal was to put this issue front and center in the minds of the Caterpillar board. By that standard, today was a remarkable success. The issue of CAT’s role in demolishing homes of Palestinian families, and the use of CAT D-9s to violate various human rights laws, completely dominated the discussion in the shareholder meeting.”