Group Opposes Bulldozer Sales
By Jeff Johnson
CNSNews Congressional Bureau Chief
August 08, 2002
A coalition working to end the "Israeli occupation of Palestinian
territories" says the U.S.-based Caterpillar Corporation is
facilitating war crimes by selling bulldozers to the Israeli Defense
"The destruction of homes ... is being used as a collective
punishment against an occupied people," said Mark Lance, an
activist with Stop U.S. Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now (SUSTAIN).
"[It's] something that's explicitly forbidden by the Geneva
Conventions [and] is a crime under International law."
Lance says Caterpillar is fully aware of what its equipment is
being used for and, as such, should stop the sales.
"Supplying equipment that is being used to commit crimes against
humanity, when you know that's happening, is an impermissible action,"
he continued. "Corporations have a responsibility."
Because Caterpillar has not responded to their request for a meeting
about the issue, Lance says SUSTAIN will take a variety of actions
against the company, beginning with Wednesday's press conference.
"That campaign will begin with education and letters and petitioning,"
he explained. "We will then move on to protests, direct action,
economic pressure ... if that's necessary."
SUSTAIN's ultimate goal, Lance admits, is to drive Israelis out
of "occupied Palestine."
"To end a 35-year illegal occupation that is the route cause
of all the violence in the Middle East," he added.
Caterpillar was chosen, Lance said, because military sales are
a small part of their business.
"In fact, they have vastly more business with construction
companies in the Arab world," he said. "It's rather easier
to pressure a company to give up a small piece of its business than
a major piece."
Benjamin Cordani, a spokesman for Caterpillar, Inc., says there
is nothing the company can do in response to SUSTAIN's complaints.
"We have more than two million Caterpillar machines and engines
working around the world, in virtually every corner of the world.
And we have neither the legal right nor the means to police the
use of that equipment," he explained.
In fact, two federal laws - the Tax Reform Act of 1976 and the
Export Administration Act - forbid U.S. companies from participating
in boycotts against foreign governments approved to do business
with American companies, without the permission of the U.S. government.
"Our sales to Israel, as with all other government around
the world and individuals around the world, are conducted in full
accordance with international law and U.S. law," he added.
"We work with the Bureau of Export Administration and the Office
of Foreign Assets Control to insure our compliance."
Caterpillar's sales to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are facilitated
through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program (FMSP), which was
established during the 1978 Camp David Accord between President
Jimmy Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and Egyptian
President Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat. Under the FMSP, U.S. funds are
allocated for the purchase of American-made commercial products
by approved foreign military forces such as the IDF.
Cordani says his employer is not oblivious to the suffering of
both Israeli's and Arabs caused by fighting in the Middle East.
"Caterpillar shares the world's concern over unrest in the
Middle East and we certainly have compassion for all those affected
by the political strife,' he said. "[But] we believe any comments
on political conflict in the region are best left to our governmental
leaders who have the ability to impact action and advance the peace
An unidentified staff member in the press office at the embassy
of Israel in Washington told CNSNews.com that the Israeli government
would have no comment on SUSTAIN's accusations.