Caterpillar: Total Devastation
Caterpillar is the world's biggest supplier of heavy earth-moving equipment to the mining industry. It was also one of the first companies in that industry to promote a code of environmental and human rights conduct. But, over the past year, its direct supply of machinery to Israel, for use in the occupied West Bank, has attracted growing concern and opposition. It has also led the Washington-based Multinational Monitor to name Caterpillar as one "the worst ten corporations of 2002".
Source: Multinational Monitor, Washington DC, December 2002
There is total devastation, no whole standing house, as though someone has bulldozed a whole community. If anyone was in a house they could not have survived. There is nothing but rubble and people walking around looking dazed. There is a smell of death under the rubble.
These are the words of an Amnesty International delegate who entered Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank minutes after the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) lifted the blockade on April 17, 2002.
IDF forces that entered Jenin and Nablus brought tanks or bulldozers through roads, often stripping off the front of houses.
In Hawashin and neighboring areas of Jenin refugee camp, 169 houses with 374 apartment units were bulldozed, mostly after the fighting had ceased.
As a result, more than 4,000 people were left homeless.
In both Jenin and in Nablus, there were instances where the IDF bulldozed houses while residents were still inside.
The report found that IDF soldiers either gave inadequate warnings or no warnings before houses were demolished and subsequently failed to take measures to rescue those trapped in the rubble and prevented others from searching for them.
Amnesty International documented three such incidents leading to the deaths of 10 people. Six others on the hospital lists of those killed in Jenin were recorded as being crushed by rubble.
This year, a group of university professors and students have organized Sustain (Stop U.S. Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now).
One of its first campaigns is to pressure Caterpillar to stop selling house demolishers to Israel.
Sustain points out that the Israeli Defense Forces have destroyed more than 7,000 Palestinian homes since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967, leaving 30,000 people homeless.
Most home demolitions target civilians who have not been charged with any crime. They are conducted as collective punishment or to clear the way for illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits collective punishment and the destruction of personal property in occupied lands.
The Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer is used by the Israeli military to carry out its program of home destruction.
The Sustain activists are demanding that Caterpillar uphold its own code of conduct by halting sales to the Israeli Defense Forces until civilian home demolitions cease.
The Caterpillar code states: "As a global company we can use our strength and resources to improve, and in some cases rebuild, the lives of our neighbors around the world."
"How can Caterpillar claim to rebuild lives when its products are used to uproot and punish civilians?" says Afifa Ahmed, a Sustain activist. The Sustain campaign will conduct coordinated national pickets and direct action at Caterpillar manufacturing and sales sites, in addition to street theater and other creative tactics.
Caterpillar has said in response to the campaign that it never intended its machinery to be used as the IDF uses them. The company declined to respond to requests for comment from Multinational Monitor. In May, a spokesperson told a British paper, the Leicester Mercury, "Caterpillar shares the world's concern over unrest in the Middle East. While we have compassion for those affected by the escalating political strife, we have neither the right nor the means to police customer use of Caterpillar equipment."
But as Georgetown University professor Mark Lance points out in a letter to Caterpillar CEO Glen Barton, "you know precisely how your equipment is being used."
"You are therefore knowingly facilitating crimes and there is no way to avoid the responsibility that comes with this," Lance writes.