Monday, June 20, 2016

Caterpillar Concerns: You Should Also Look into the Manufacturer's Unwelcomed Presence in Gaza Strip, West Bank

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2016 at 12:00 PM

I recently wrote about a Menlo Park Neighborhood Association meeting I attended a couple of weeks ago, where Menlo residents and Rio Nuevo Board representatives discussed mining equipment manufacturer Caterpillar's regional headquarter's upcoming move to West Side Tucson.

Much of the city is celebrating the fact that Caterpillar chose the Old Pueblo over others like Phoenix and Denver to bring what could mean $600 million in economic impact and 600 well-paying jobs—many of which will already be taken by existing Caterpillar employees, who will begin relocating to Tucson this summer.

My focus of the article revolved around a handful of residents who are concerned about what this will mean to the historic Menlo Park: everything from hikes in property tax and rent costs that will push old-time residents out to environmental and gentrification concerns. (Is this part of the trend to kill as much of Tucson's Native American and Mexican American cultural heritage as possible?)

Abby Okrent with the Jewish Voice for Peace-Tucson pointed out another huge issue of much global scale regarding Caterpillar and whether or not a city like Tucson should be rejoicing over their move here: there is a global campaign against Caterpillar for "its complicity in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip."

The company sells its bulldozers to Israel through the U.S. government Foreign Ministry.  A 2007 post by the Center for Constitutional Rights says, "Since its occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem following the 1967 war, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has destroyed more than 18,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Meanwhile, Caterpillar, Inc., a U.S. company, has sold bulldozers to the IDF knowing they would be used to unlawfully demolish homes and put civilians in danger." (There is a lot of information about human rights concerns just an Internet search away.)

It is important to get all layers of this situation. Not all is a celebration when it comes to Caterpillar. There are voices stepping up, asking questions, despite several suggestions to keep opinions at a minimum over fear that Caterpillar will feel "unwelcomed." 

Okrent sent the Weekly the following editor's note:
Caterpillar sells specialized bulldozers that Israel weaponizes and uses to further the Occupation and expand settlements. Israel's Occupation depends on the destruction of Palestinian homes and infrastructure, and the construction of illegal settlements, checkpoints, walls, and segregated roads. An armored Caterpillar D9 or D10 bulldozer can destroy a home within minutes, and sometimes with not much more warning to its inhabitants.

In 2003, when a Caterpillar bulldozer crushed 23-year old American peace activist Rachel Corrie, the U.S. campaign against Caterpillar's bulldozer sales to Israel took off. Initially led by the Sisters of Loreto, whose Catholic order held stock in Caterpillar, it has since expanded greatly. Many U.S. churches, including the Presbyterian Church-USA, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalists, Mennonite Central Committee, and Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation, have divested from Caterpillar. Retirement company TIAA-CREF divested from Caterpillar, and Caterpillar was removed from the MSCI's socially responsible company index in 2012. A number of colleges and universities have also voted to divest from Caterpillar.

Caterpillar has steadfastly rejected shareholder resolutions and outside calls for accountability. There is no reason that a company that does such a brisk business in civilian equipment needs to make and sell what are essentially military machines, although we fear that this is also what will be happening along our own border. Between the city's security contract with private prison company G4S and this new deal with Caterpillar, we are concerned that Tucson's business decisions do not reflect our values a a city.

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