Caterpillar jobs announcement in Belfast marred by association with human rights abuses
The announcement of 200 new jobs in an economically deprived area of West Belfast has been widely welcomed. Unfortunately the company providing these jobs, Caterpillar, has a record that is not something to celebrate.
Caterpillar is the subject of an international divestment campaign because its equipment has been routinely used by Israel to demolish Palestinian homes and destroy farmland. It is also used in the building of illegal settlements and wall in the occupied Palestinian territories. Furthermore, Caterpillar bulldozers have also killed several people, including the crushing to death of US human rights activist Rachel Corrie ten years ago next month.
According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, since September 2000, over 12,000 Palestinian homes and other structures have been demolished by Israeli occupation forces.
Amnesty International has said that “thousands of families have had their homes and possessions destroyed under the blades of the Israeli army’s US-made Caterpillar bulldozers”, and that “often the only warning is the rumbling of the Israeli army’s bulldozers and tanks and the inhabitants barely have time to flee as the bulldozers begin to tear down the walls of their homes”. The organisation has also stated that “by targeting Palestinians for house demolitions and denial of building permits, the Israeli government has violated its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law”.
In many, if not all, of these incidents the Caterpillar armoured D9 bulldozer has been used. An Israeli military official is on record as saying “the D-9 is a strategic weapon here”. The US group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has said that the Caterpillar “product has become Israel’s weapon of choice for ethnic cleansing and potentially even war crimes”.
For over ten years, human rights and Palestinian solidarity activists have been calling for Caterpillar to cease doing business with Israel. JVP has said that “Caterpillar makes very little money from selling these military D9’s to Israel, but the cost to Caterpillar’s reputation is enormous”.
Caterpillar’s complicity in these abuses is clear, and the company has been subject to calls for divestment and boycott until such time as it ends this complicity. The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) reiterates this call for Caterpillar to cease its trade in death and destruction with the apartheid state of Israel. The IPSC is also notes that ‘Invest NI’, the Northern Ireland Assembly’s business development agency, has offered Caterpillar £1.27m towards the plan. We believe that taxpayers’ money should not be used to subsidise companies that are complicit in human rights abuses abroad.