US Campaign and Jewish Voice for Peace Secure Meeting with CAT CEO, James Owens

June 11th, 2008

[Chicago, IL] A shareholder resolution calling on the Caterpillar Board of Directors to report on foreign sales of weapons-related equipment and products, including the destination of those products, received a 3.3% vote at the annual shareholder meeting today in Chicago [pending final certification]. It met the minimum threshold of support required for placement on the ballot next year.

The resolution was backed by investors with holdings estimated to be valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  Co-filers included Jewish Voice for Peace, Sisters of Loretto, Sisters of Mercy, and 11 other faith-based groups.

Suha Dabbouseh of the US Campaign to End the Occupation also announced that the Campaign, JVP, and other co-filers had secured a future meeting with CAT CEO Jim Owens, who publicly defended the company against charges that it profited from human rights violations in the Palestinian Occupied Territories by stating that, "No one is chasing the car companies," even though cars are being used to blow up people. Dabbouseh said, "We welcome Owens' commitment to dialogue. But that is only the first step. We want to see corporate policies that put human rights first."

Lynn Pollack of Jewish Voice for Peace introduced the resolution, saying "We believe that the use of Caterpillar equipment by foreign militaries in actions that violate human rights and international humanitarian law raises issues for Caterpillar corporate policy and risks damage to the company's reputation. ... As it stands, we know one place where Caterpillar machinery / weapons are being used to perpetrate human rights abuses in a conflict zone that place is in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza."

The meeting was preceded by a spirited protest out front, and a press conference with representatives from various human rights organization including Stop CAT, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Arab American Action Network.

Three area residents from Stop CAT were escorted out of the meeting by plainclothes Chicago policemen when they interrupted the proceedings to say the names of Palestinians families who had lost their homes to Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers used by the Israeli military. One of the families mentioned was the Nasrallah family, whose home nonviolent activist Rachel Corrie was defending when she was killed by a CAT bulldozer. The protestors each chanted,"Do the right thing!"

Matt Gaines, organizer for Chicago-based Stop CAT said, "Caterpillar's role in destroying Palestine homes must be stopped. We will sustain or efforts in applying non-violent, tactics on Caterpillar until they adhere to there own stated corporate standards."

Over the years, Caterpillar has come under fire from the international human rights community--including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the UN-- for supplying weaponized bulldozers to Israel's military. These bulldozers have been used to destroy thousands of homes and family orchards in the West Bank and Gaza in violation of international law.

Caterpillar continues to face threats of divestment from major religious denominations including the Presbyterian Church USA, which is currently engaged in direct talks, will be considering further action next week  at their General Assembly in San Jose, CA; and the World Council of Churches, which represents some half a billion Christians, in 2005 issued a statement supporting  selective divestment from companies that profit from Israel's occupation.

A group in Seattle is gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to divest from companies, including Caterpillar and Halliburton that profit from the occupations in Iraq and/or the Palestinian Territories. Caterpillar was also sued by the parents of nonviolent human rights activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer while defending a home in Gaza from being destroyed.
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Jewish Voice for Peace is the country's largest grassroots Jewish peace group dedicated to achieving a lasting peace that recognizes the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination. We work to promote a foreign policy based on peace, democracy, human rights and respect for international law. Contact JVP for background information on the silent majority of American Jews who support an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org