Occupation-Free Portland, a coalition of faith, social justice and peace organizations, in collaboration with Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC), have launched an ad campaign on TriMet buses serving the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area. The ad reads, “Portland: Divest from Caterpillar. Caterpillar Violates Human Rights from Standing Rock to Palestine.” The ad shows a photograph of a Caterpillar bulldozer that was used to desecrate a sacred burial site on land promised to the Standing Rock Sioux nation by an 1851 treaty. It also shows a photograph of a Palestinian child left in the ruins of her home demolished by a Caterpillar bulldozer.
“We wanted to show that Caterpillar is complicit in serious human rights violations that are contrary to Portland’s Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy,” said Maxine Fookson, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and the steering committee of Occupation-Free Portland.
The ad campaign comes as Portland’s City Council prepares to vote on December 15 on whether the city will continue to invest in Caterpillar. Since 2014, the city has invested more than $110 million in commercial paper issued by Caterpillar.
In October, the city’s Socially Responsible Investments Committee (SRIC) issued its final report to the City Council and found Caterpillar in “violation of Sioux’s human rights” and Palestinian human rights. The SRIC called out findings by the United Nations Human Rights Council showing that Caterpillar’s D9 bulldozer was used by the Israeli military to violate UN agreements and to carry out “attacks on civilians.”
The SRIC is a volunteer committee that advises the city on its investments and recommends that companies be placed on the Do-Not-Buy list if they breach the criteria established under the SRI policy. The committee found that Caterpillar violated six of the seven criteria, including extreme tax avoidance and harm to the environment in addition to human rights.
“Portland has rightly condemned the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and issued an official proclamation supporting the Standing Rock Sioux,” noted Rod Such, another member of the OFP steering committee. “It makes no sense to invest in a company that is helping build the pipeline you’ve just condemned. It makes no sense to ban investments in fossil fuel companies, as Portland did earlier this year, and yet put $110 million into a company that specializes in extracting fossil fuels.” Caterpillar’s Oil and Gas Division sells and leases portable generators used for fracking shale oil, and seven Caterpillar dealers directly leased 250 earth excavators to the company building DAPL.
Caterpillar’s D9 bulldozer is sold to the Israeli military through the U.S. military sales program and is weaponized by a Caterpillar subsidiary in Israel. Numerous human rights and faith organizations, including Human Rights Watch, United Church of Christ and Presbyterian USA, have called on Caterpillar for more than a decade to cease these sales. Since 1967 Caterpillar bulldozers have been used to destroy more than 12,000 Palestinian homes and businesses, leaving more than 50,000 Palestinians homeless in blatant violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which both Israel and the United States have ratified.
The bus ad campaign began on Nov. 29, coinciding with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The campaign is scheduled to run for one month. The ad is cosponsored by Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, a Portland-based group, and Jewish Voice for Peace-Portland Chapter.