The Socialist Unity Network

Protesters storm Caterpiller factory

Paul Wilcox

Bulldozing Human Rights!

On Friday May 21 Demonstrators stormed the Caterpillar Factory to campaign against its support for the Israeli army.

12 of us from the Tyneside Palestine Solidarity Campaign, invaded and blocked the entrance of Caterpillar in Peterlee, county Durham. The action was taken to highlight concerns over the company's continuing sales of giant D9 Bulldozers to the Israeli Army.


Chris Barnes secretary of the Tyneside Palestine Solidarity Campaign said in a interview to the local press: "Caterpillar's bulldozers are being used to demolish homes in the occupied territories, and to wreak a terrible collective punishment on the Palestinian people.


“These activities are illegal under international law and yet Caterpillar refuses to suspend sales of its bulldozers to the Israeli army."


"Over 1,000 people have had their homes destroyed in the last week and we call on Caterpillar to stop its sales of these machines of death and destruction."


We invaded the Caterpillar plant, lowering the company's flag and a U.S. flag to half-mast. Some protesters climbed on several of the firm's bulldozers, and others chained themselves to the main gates, and the workforce was leafleted.


PSC supporter Phil Capon said: "We asked the management to accept a letter from us, explaining what use their vehicles are being put to, but they refused.


"This is just the first in a series of actions we are planning, and we will follow this up by asking shops selling Caterpillar clothes and footwear to stop doing so."


Since the beginning of the intifada, in September of 2000, the Israeli military has destroyed over than 3000 Palestinian homes, offices, buildings and other civilian structures including the destruction of more than 200,000 Palestinian olive trees have been uprooted by the bulldozers in the past two years, the main livelihood for many Palestinians.


The US industrial machinery giant, Caterpillar, is the main supplier of the specially designed bulldozers which the Israeli military uses to carry out this destruction. Such acts are a form of collective punishment and, therefore, considered a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and by the UN.


A statement released by Caterpillar Inc said: “We share the world’s concern over the unrest in the middle east and certainly have compassion for all those affected.


“However, more than two million Caterpillar machines are at work in every county in every region of the world each day.

“We have neither the legal right or means to police individual use of equipment”


Caterpillar also states in it‘s “code of practice”:


“As a global company we can use our strength and resources to improve, and in some cases rebuild, the lives of our neighbours around the world.”


How can Caterpillar claim to rebuild lives when its products are used to uproot and punish civilians? Caterpillar are complicit in the death of innocent Palestinians.


Sales of bulldozers to any government would not ordinarily raise eyebrows. Unlike tanks or bombs, a bulldozer seems a relatively innocuous - if powerful - machine which might be used for any number of productive civilian purposes. In Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, however, these machines have been used to carry out housing demolitions that achieve Israeli strategic and demographic objectives while violating the human rights of Palestinians.


As one of the demonstrators Louise van der Hoeven said in an interview to Tyne Tees evening news said: “We came here today to tell people, what people all over find unacceptable, that Caterpillar sell their goods to the Israeli Army.

Caterpillar knows what they are doing with their products, Caterpillar is free to sell to who it likes , but it is selling bulldozers to the Israeli Army, who are using their product to knock down homes and make thousands of people homeless”


May 2004


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