On 16 March 2003, my cousin Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli
soldiers operating a 64-ton armoured bulldozer, while she was attempting to prevent the demolition of the house of a civilian family, including five children, who were still inside.
The US-based Caterpillar Corporation built and sold this and thousands more
bulldozers to Israel through the US government's Foreign Military Sales Program. The bulldozers were then armoured for the purposes of demolishing civilian homes - illegal according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, .
Caterpillar has supplied bulldozers to Israel since 1967, and since then 10,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed, resulting in the deaths of many Palestinian civilians, but also in the widespread displacement of tens of thousands of civilians. Caterpillar has received numerous reports on the use of its products in the Occupied Territories since at least 2001. For this reason, the family of Rachel Corrie has filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar, Inc for its negligence in her death.
In July 2004 the Presbyterian Church (USA) decided to investigate selective divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Recently the church listed Caterpillar, Inc as one of four candidates for divestment. This bold step is the only way to discourage Caterpillar and other corporations like it from exploiting the suffering of civilians for economic gain - by making it costly for them to maintain their current practices. Action by other investors, such as the Church of England with its £2.2m in Caterpillar shares, would strengthen the impact of this principled stance.
Until multinational corporations are ready to take their social responsibility seriously, people of conscience must translate moral accountability into the only language corporations really understand - financial.
Even if we have to drag them kicking and screaming up the moral ladder, we can, through divestment, show them that people really are more important than profits.