Shareholders to Caterpillar: ‘our product has become Israel’s weapon of choice for ethnic cleansing and potentially even war crimes’

Israel/Palestine
on 21 Comments
640px IDF D9R pic001
IDF Caterpillar D9R armored bulldozer with cage armor and FN MAG 7.62mm machinegun. (Photo: MathKnight and Zachi Evenor via Wikimedia Commons)

This speech was given to the Caterpillar Corporation’s CEO, their board of directors, and top management at the annual Caterpillar shareholder’s meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas on June 8, 2011.

The speech was given on behalf of Jewish Voice for Peace, which had purchased shares of Caterpillar stock so we could offer a shareholder proposal and make a speech in support of it.

Our shareholder proposal urged Caterpillar to review its policies related to human rights and to conform more fully with international human rights standards. Our proposal was endorsed many shareholders, including the Catholic Sisters of Loretto, and a coalition of other religious organizations. The proposal can be read at this link (PDF, look for Proposal 11): 

Although our proposal did not pass, it received 21% of the votes, which is considered a high number for a proposal that was opposed by the company management.

Caterpillar shareholder speech in favor of Proposal 11                

By Russ Greenleaf, on behalf of Jewish Voice for Peace

June 8, 2011

Little Rock, Arkansas       

Hi. I’m Russ Greenleaf, a shareholder with Jewish Voice for Peace and a coalition of religious organizations, speaking in favor of Proposal 11.

I am Jewish. I am not anti-Israel. I have friends in Israel, and I want what’s best for them.

Caterpillar’s sale of D9 bulldozers to Israel is not good for Israel or for Caterpillar’s reputation. Israel’s routine use of those D9’s to destroy the homes of innocent Palestinian’s is making Israel a pariah in the world and destroying any chance for peace.

Amnesty International says, and I quote:

House demolitions usually are carried out without warning, often at night, and the occupants are given little or no time to leave their homes. Often the only warning they get is the rumbling of the Israeli army’s Caterpillar bulldozers. They barely have time to flee as the bulldozers tear down the walls of their homes.

Sometimes they are buried alive under the rubble.

An Israeli newspaper reported that an Israeli army D9 dozer operator said, and I quote:

I had no mercy for anybody. I would erase anyone with the D9. They were warned by loudspeaker to get out of the house before I came, but I gave no one a chance. I didn’t wait. I didn’t give one blow and wait for them to come out. I would just ram the house with full power, to bring it down as fast as possible.

Ladies and gentlemen these are very serious human rights violations, and they happen again and again — with our knowledge.

The Israeli army says, quote: “The D9 is a strategic weapon here.”

Fellow shareholders, our product has become Israel’s weapon of choice for ethnic cleansing and potentially even war crimes. Israel knows it, and the world knows it. Yet our management buries its head in the sand when dealing with human rights.  They say, quote:

“It is not clear what is meant by the Company’s ‘policies related to human rights.’ “

That is exactly why we need proposal 11 – a call to review Caterpillar’s policies related to human rights and to conform more fully with human rights standards.

In the video we just saw, a Caterpillar representative said, “Our brand – our name – has high expectations. I think we should exceed high expectations.”

Caterpillar makes very little money from selling these military D9’s to Israel, but the cost to Caterpillar’s reputation is enormous, and escalating. It’s time to call a halt. Passing proposal 11 is a very modest first step in that direction. It’s long overdue.

I move proposal 11. Please vote for it. Thank you.

21 Responses

  1. Miura
    June 13, 2011, 11:04 am

    As Benny Morris, the Israeli historian mused “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”. But, as Isiah Berlin noted, “Eggs are certainly broken–never more violently than in our times–but the omelette is far to seek, it recedes into an infinite distance.”

  2. pabelmont
    June 13, 2011, 11:10 am

    I’m so proud of JVP. They did it just right. Let’s hope someone was listening.

    • russgreen
      June 15, 2011, 2:16 pm

      Thanks for your encouraging words. Yes, let’s hope they listen. The CEO and board of directors heard the speech, so now they can’t say “We didn’t know.” — Russ Greenleaf

  3. eljay
    June 13, 2011, 11:21 am

    >> IDF Caterpillar D9R armored bulldozer with cage armor and FN MAG 7.62mm machinegun.

    Damn! That thing just screams “humanize ‘the Other'”, doesn’t it?

    >> The Israeli army says, quote: “The D9 is a strategic weapon here.”

    When you’re engaged in an ON-GOING campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder, you need all the strategic weapons you can get.

    • DICKERSON3870
      June 14, 2011, 7:38 am

      THAT CAT IS RAD!!!!!!!

      Surfer lingo translated to English:
      cat = caterpillar
      rad = radical

  4. Les
    June 13, 2011, 11:37 am

    US laws forbid Google Earth from showing closeup images of both Israel and the Occupied Territories since 1997 which includes, “Prohibition on collection and release of detailed satellite imagery relating to Israel.”

    link to motherjones.com

  5. LanceThruster
    June 13, 2011, 1:14 pm

    Every time I read a story along these lines the same thought occurs. If the party being victimized in this manner anywhere in the world was Jews, the hue and cry would be that this was the most heinous crime imaginable and immediate action would be called for to put a stop to it.

    Instead, because it is ‘only’ Palestinians, it is not meant to evoke much concern as, per the official narrative, they either ‘deserved’ it or brought it upon themselves.

    I can’t stress this point made by Fredy Perlman enough.

    Escape from death in a gas chamber or a Pogrom, or incarceration in a concentration camp, may give a thoughtful and capable writer, Solzhenitsyn for example, profound insights into many of the central elements of contemporary existence, but such an experience does not, in itself, make Solzhenitsyn a thinker, a writer, or even a critic of concentration camps; it does not, in itself, confer any special powers. In another person the experience might lie dormant as a potentiality, or remain forever meaningless, or it might contribute to making the person an ogre. In short, the experience is an indelible part of the individual’s past but it does not determine his future; the individual is free to choose his future; he is even free to choose to abolish his freedom, in which case he chooses in bad faith and is a Salaud (J.P. Sartre’s precise philosophical term for a person who makes such a choice [The usual English translation is ‘Bastard’]).

    From: link to theanarchistlibrary.org

  6. seafoid
    June 13, 2011, 1:44 pm

    The machine looks like something out of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch

    • Walid
      June 13, 2011, 4:32 pm

      The current Caterpillar D9 at just under a million dollars is intended as an earth-moving machine, but the armor plating, the machine gun, the grenade launchers and so on are installed on it not by Caterpillar but by Israeli arms manufacturers in Israel. The same for the 62 D9s bought by the US military in 2003 to be used in Iraq that were modified with the special armour by Israel. The D9 is not evil but the Israelis have modified it for evil purposes. Some of those D9s being used on the Palestinians are operated unmanned by remote control via cameras installed on them.

      How is it that no one has ever gone to Boeing’s board meetings or to General Motors’ to raise a stink about the Apaches and Humvees being used by Israel to kill civilians?

  7. Citizen
    June 13, 2011, 3:56 pm

    Caterpillar “makes very little money” from selling those bulldozers to Israel?
    Mmmm, is anyone sure about this? The price for one is $250,000.00 to $500,000.00: link to sites.google.com

    Is there some sort of special arangement for the customer if it is Israel?
    Why? Shouldn’t the shareholders know about this? Does Israel get a discount which is made up by higher prices to customers that are not Israel? If so, shouldn’t they know about this?

    • Hostage
      June 14, 2011, 3:51 am

      The U.S. Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Caterpillar in the Corrie case which said that sales of the bulldozers are conducted through the Foreign Military Sales Program. It is the U.S. Department of Defense that purchases the construction equipment and then resells it to foreign governments.

    • russgreen
      June 15, 2011, 2:25 pm

      There is evidence that the sale of military-modified D9 bulldozers to Israel accounts for less than one half of one percent of Caterpillar’s gross revenue. — Russ Greenleaf

  8. Bart
    June 13, 2011, 5:24 pm

    Re: citizen

    Hmmm. Lets see. Caterpillar does not have a monopoly. There are american and non-american competitors for all its products. Therefore, if any of its offerings are premium ‘mispriced in order to compensate for mispricing discounts elsewhere, then surely customers will buy from its competitors who offer better prices. Its what happens in good ole capitalistic markets.

    Either way, Caterpillar, in a competitive, global and (mostly) free market, surely sells its products around the world at whatever prices they think makes sense releative to their primary constituencies, ie, customers, shareholders, employees, suppliers, etc.

    • Hostage
      June 14, 2011, 4:00 am

      Caterpillar does not have a monopoly. There are american and non-american competitors for all its products. Therefore, if any of its offerings are premium ‘mispriced in order to compensate for mispricing discounts elsewhere, then surely customers will buy from its competitors who offer better prices.

      That is not how DoD procurement programs usually work. It would be relatively easy for Israel to request D9s and to designate Caterpillar as the sole source of supply – in order to maintain backward compatibility with their existing spare parts, maintenance training programs, and pre-engineered Israeli modifications. Those would be incompatible with a competitor’s products.

  9. Avi
    June 13, 2011, 7:12 pm

    Modern history includes such examples as Nazi Germany’s Volkswagen and of course, there is IBM for its involvement.

    So, now Caterpillar will be associated with ethnic cleansing.

    The Israeli army says, quote: “The D9 is a strategic weapon here.”

    Indeed.

  10. jayn0t
    June 13, 2011, 10:18 pm

    “I am Jewish. I am not anti-Israel. I have friends in Israel, and I want what’s best for them.” says Russ Greenleaf. He argues that murdering and dispossessing Palestinians with armored bulldozers is bad for his Israeli friends. But others could argue that it’s good for them – it gives them land which Palestinians used to occupy, and it helps prevent them getting it back. Suppose this argument is more convincing. Will Russ still want “what’s best for” his friends in Israel?

    • russgreen
      June 14, 2011, 10:39 am

      No. I did not mean to give that impression.

      I don’t think there is any argument strong enough to convince me that Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and murder of Palestinians would ever be justified or would ever be good for Israel or for my friends in Israel. In Judaism, there are some sins which a Jew may never commit, even to save his own life. Murder of an innocent person is one of those sins. By extension, Israel should cease to exist rather than murder innocent Palestinians. It can never be good for Israel to murder people.

      Due to time constraints, I had to cut out parts of my speech that I normally would have included, including this part: ” I have friends in Palestine, and I want what’s best for them too.” I will try to include that next time. — Russ Greenleaf

      • Mooser
        June 14, 2011, 5:07 pm

        “In Judaism, there are some sins which a Jew may never commit, even to save his own life.”

        russgreen is right. The punishment for these sins is worse than death. A Jew who commits them is never allowed to eat bagels again!

        BTW russ, get it through your head: There are no innocent Palestinians! Every one Israel has, well, dealt with, has been guilty of something, or Israel would not have done what they did. After all “there are some sins which a Jew may never commit”.

      • Mooser
        June 14, 2011, 5:14 pm

        Hey, Russ, if there are some sins Jews just can’t committ, how the hell did Israel get there in the first place?
        Or did the Nakba not include any of those sins?

  11. GuiltyFeat
    June 14, 2011, 7:57 am

    I find these kinds of shareholder protests perfectly laudable.

    They also clearly show that you hold a minority opinion, for better or for worse.

    • Chaos4700
      June 14, 2011, 9:55 am

      You know the execs of Caterpillar have taken to moving their annual shareholder’s meeting to a new place every time, and everywhere it goes, protests follow it and every single time, there are multiple shareholders who insist on talking about Caterpillar’s role in the occupation.

      This isn’t necessarily a minority opinion and actual support for selling death machines probably has even less outright support, this is the execs desperately dodging the people they are obliged to. There is an ironic relationship now between Caterpillar and the people who are supposed to own the company via shares because Caterpillar keeps trying to make itself inaccessible to those very people.

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