Published on Thursday, June 15, 2006 by Inter Press Service
Caterpillar Pressured Over "Weaponised Bulldozers"
by Emad Mekay
WASHINGTON - The parents of a U.S. peace activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer built by the global machinery giant Caterpillar confronted the company Wednesday for the first time and urged shareholders at its annual meeting to end sales of "weaponised bulldozers to Israel".
Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of the late Rachel Corrie, attended the meeting as proxy voters on behalf of Jewish and Christian institutional investors who have filed a resolution asking for greater corporate accountability from Caterpillar.
Activists supporting the parents who lost their daughter in 2003 say that the company sells machinery to the Israeli army in violation of its corporate accountability pledge and knowing full well that the equipment will be used for the destruction of Palestinian homes and farms.
"We are part of a growing movement for corporate responsibility in the United States," said Matt Gaines of the STOP CAT campaign in a telephone interview from outside the shareholders' meeting in Chicago.
"Getting the U.S. government to take action on this issue has been very, very difficult, even though we are still working on it. But we are taking it directly to the corporations involved that are sponsoring, aiding or abetting war crimes," he said.
Caterpillar has become the poster child for U.S. companies that are being targeted in divestment drives for their role in human rights abuses by the Israeli army in occupied Palestinian land. It has said in the past that it bears no responsibility for how its products are used by clients. Spokespersons from the company were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
Rachel Corrie was killed in the town of Rafah while she and other members of the International Solidarity Movement were trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian house in the Gaza Strip on Mar. 16, 2003.
"What is at issue here has little to do with moral justice; but it has much to do with radical, liberal, leftist obsession," the pastor wrote.
His words have not dissuaded Christian groups from discussing the issue further on Christian and moral grounds. An intense debate is going on in Birmingham, Alabama where thousands of delegates to the Presbyterian General Assembly are to decide on future steps in their divestment drive.
Christian Zionist groups have also argued that divestment is the wrong approach and called for more investments to build neighbourly relations between Palestinians and the Israelis.
But last week, the National Middle Eastern Presbyterian Caucus of the Presbyterian Church said in a statement that while a positive investment strategy can be constructive, it fails "to stop the Israeli government from confiscating Palestinian property and expropriating Palestinian land".
Copyright © 2006 IPS-Inter Press Service