When the news first broke last week that Caterpillar was dropped from MSCI‘s socially responsible investing indices, pro-Israel organizations downplayed the action claiming it had nothing to do with Israel. MSCI’s statement yesterday that the occupation was a “key factor” in the decision is forcing anti-boycott activists to admit Caterpillar’s relationship to the Israeli military is hurting the company.
From The Forward:
“For us, this is an unequivocal victory,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Jewish organizations, which had at first dismissed the BDS groups’ declarations of victory as spin, voiced dismay with MSCI’s decision after MSCI issued its clarifying statement. “One would hope that the ratings company would base its rating on the companies, not the lies people tell about them,” said Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
Kenneth Stern, the anti-Semitism expert at the American Jewish Committee said: “The BDS people try to make any investment decision into a victory.”
In annual reports to Congress, the U.S. State Department has repeatedly criticized Israel’s demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, and in East Jerusaelm over many years. The demolitions have often been implemented with Caterpillar bulldozers and other heavy equipment, leading to the divestment protests against Caterpillar.
Israel has defended the demolitions as actions taken within the context of Israeli law. Many demolished homes, particularly in East Jerusalem, lack proper building permits, though the State Department reports that Israeli laws and procedures make such permits difficult for Palestinians to obtain. Homes of suicide bombers have also been demolished, although that practice has been suspended in recent years. The army sometimes demolishes homes after declaring the land on which they sit to be part of a live-fire zone.