A U.S. based multinational manufacturer and provider of civil and military engineering machinery. Caterpillar is the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment. The company operates in three sectors: resource industries, construction industries and power systems.
The company's machines were used for the demolition of Palestinian houses in the occupied Palestinian territories, the construction of settlements, the Separation Wall and settlement infrastructure on Palestinian land, for creating roadblocks, dispersing demonstrations and as weapons.
Caterpillar is a long-standing supplier of the Israeli army and provides it with a variety of heavy engineering machinery, including different wheel loaders, armored excavators, mini loaders and several models from the D9 armored bulldozer series (D9R, D9N and D9L). D9s were used for operational tasks such as large-scale house demolitions in Gaza, land-clearing missions in Palestinian towns and arresting or killing Palestinian suspects using the pressure cooker procedure.
The most famous heavy engineering machine used by the Israeli army is the Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer. This track-type tractor, weighing more than 60 tons, is sold by Caterpillar directly to the Israeli army through the United States Foreign Military Sales program, separately from its regular supply chain to the general Israeli market. The company's sole representative in the country, Israel Tractors and Equipment (I.T.E, part of Zoko Enterprises),and Ramta, a division of the government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), are responsible for retrofitting the tools. Zoko Enterprises and the Ramta Division equip the D9s with a ballistic armor suit. The standard configuration includes weapon mounts, storage compartments, a spotlight and projector lamps and communication equipment. The D9's shield also includes a protection system against anti-tank weapons and as of 2006 an additional slat armor.
The collaboration between Zoko Enterprises and the Ramta Division also produced an unmanned, remote-controlled version of the armored D9T, nicknamed Pooh HaDov (Winnie-the-Pooh). The development of this vehicle took place in Ramta's factory in Beersheba and was sponsored and supervised by the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (Mafat), a joint administrative body of the Ministry of Defense and the army. An earlier unmanned version, the so-called Dawn Thunder, based on the Caterpillar D9N model and developed by Ramta, was used in war crimes during the Second Lebanon War, and in the invasions to Gaza during Operation Cast Lead and Operation Protective Edge.
Today, the Engineering Corps holds and operates hundreds of Caterpillar D9 bulldozers in three models: D9R, D9N and D9L, including the unmanned Thunder of Dawn. According to Israeli military publications, their importance to Israeli military tactics is rising steadily.
As an example, the D9 was used in Operation Protective Edge, Israel's 2014 attack on the Gaza strip. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 2192 Palestinians were killed during the 50 days of Protective Edge, including numerous whole families. More than 20,000 housing units were destroyed, leaving more than 100,000 people homeless. According to the testimony of Israeli soldiers, D9s destroyed buildings, agricultural land, and even animals as part of their mission. In its report on Protective Edge, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights determined that such "wanton distruction" of property not justified by military necessity could amount to a war crime as well as a violation of Article 23 of the 1907 Hague Regulations.
Other Caterpillar Military Engineering Tools
Other than the D9, Caterpillar supplies a variety of heavy engineering machinery to the Israeli army: various wheel loaders; 225, 245 and 330 armored excavators; and the Front Runner – a remote controlled mini loader built on the chassis of a Caterpillar MTL 257B (also known as the MiniCat). The Front Runner is another product of the fruitful collaboration between Zoko Enterprises and the Ramta Division. According to the Israeli Engineering Corps, the armored Caterpillar excavators took part in house demolitions, in the destruction of the Mukataa in Ramallah in 2002 and in the Israeli army's 2006 raid on the Palestinian prison in Jericho. The Front Runner, which was developed for urban warfare, can also operate in the narrow alleys of Palestinian refugee camps.
The local distributor of Caterpillar equipment to the Israeli army, Zoko Enterprises, also provides the maintenance, spare parts and storage services for the machinery. Moreover, Zoko's employees function not only as civilian maintenance workers, but also as potential reserve soldiers. In 2009, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported about a planned contract between the army and the company, which would enable the immediate drafting of Zoko's civilian staff, in order to allow them full access to the tools on the battlefield. No information was found confirming the final signing of such a contract.
Caterpillar's engineering machinery was also used by civilian companies for the construction of a large number of settlements in the OPT, including Revava, Maskiot, Oranit, Carmel, Elkana and Beitar Illit in the West Bank and the Har Homa settlement neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Caterpillar machinery was also used in various projects serving the settlements, such as the Ariel West and Barkan industrial zones, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem high speed train and the headquarters of the Judea and Samaria District of the Israel Police, located in the E1 area. The models used for these tasks are: 330B, 330BL and 936.
The construction of the Separation Wall and checkpoints was also executed using Caterpillar heavy machinery. The company's loaders and excavators were documented during works on the land of the Palestinian villages of Mas'ha, Al-Walaja, Qalandiya, Jayous, Ras al-Tira, Khirbet Jbara and Wadi a-Rasha and during the construction of the Anabta and Qalandiya checkpoints The models used for these tasks are: 330C, 330CL, 345B, 345D, 936 and D10N.
Wheel loaders manufactured by the company were used by the Israeli army for creating roadblocks or for demolishing access roads leading to Palestinian villages in the area of Qarawat Bani Hassan, Aqabah and various locations around the South Hebron Hills. The roadblocks were created using the 938G wheel loader and military loaders.
In addition, Caterpillar track excavators and wheel loaders were used for the demolition of Palestinian houses. The company's tools participated in demolitions in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah, Beit Hanina and Tsur Baher in East Jerusalem and in the South Hebron Hills area.
As of the past several years, Caterpillar military wheel loaders are also used as a crowd control weapon in Kafr Qaddum, during the weekly demonstrations in the village.
Economic Activism Highlights
- On April 5, 2017, the City Council of Portland, OR, voted to stop all new investment of city cash in corporate debt. "The vote followed hours of testimony from members of the public who said they did not want their tax dollars supporting corporations." While the decision impacts all corporate securities, Caterpillar was named specifically during public testimony.
- On March 15, 2017, the De Anza College Associated Student Body (DASB) passed a resolution to "divest from companies that violate international human rights law" in Palestine, naming specifically Caterpillar. This was the first community college to pass a divestment resolution related to human rights violations in Palestine. Students for Justice, the group that presented the resolution, told DASB that "by asking De Anza to divest, you are asking them to no longer take a side in this conflict."
- On December 8, 2016, the Senate of the University of Manchester Student Union, the largest student union in the United Kingdom, voted in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. The students called on the university administration to "end its ties with businesses and institutions that are particularly complicit in violations of Palestinian human rights." Specifically, the students demanded that the university sells its "investments in companies linked to Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people," including its £1 million shares in Caterpillar.
- On May 31, 2016, students at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA voted overwhelmingly to endorse resolutions expressing support for freedom and equality for Palestinians. The students call on the Evergreen State College administration and Aramark to respect student democracy and comply with the resolution to condemn the presence of Caterpillar Inc. equipment on campus.
- On April 12, 2016, the College Council of the University of Chicago passed a resolution to Divest University funds from apartheid, urging the university “ to withdraw, within the bounds of their fiduciary duty, investments in securities, endowments, mutual funds, and other monetary instruments with holdings in companies profiting from human rights abuses and violations of international law in Palestine, including, Caterpillar."
- March 25, 2016, The Unitarian Universalist Association and its endowment fund have implemented a human rights screen and divested from companies complicit in human rights violations, including Caterpillar.
- March 17, 2016, the Portland Social Responsible Investments Committee voted to recommend the city end its investments in Caterpillar, stating that "Caterpillar is the model of corporate bad behavior."
- On March 6, 2016, the Vassar Student Association voted to support the international BDS movement and to divest from companies profiting from Israeli human rights abuses, including Caterpillar.
- The Undergraduate Student Government Assembly at the University of Illinois-Chicago, unanimously voted on February 16, 2016, to pass a resolution to divest from corporate profiting off the Israeli occupation and other human rights violations, including Caterpillar.
- On January 19, 2016, a landslide vote by the University of South Florida student senate passed a joint resolution to divest from corporations who profit from "illegal and brutal occupation" in Palestine, including Caterpillar. The resolution was later vetoed by the student government president.
- In November 2015 the student government at San Jose State University voted to divest from "companies that play an active role in the human rights violations committed by the Israeli Government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" including Caterpillar.In November 2015, the University of California Santa Cruz student government reinstated a divestment resolution against Caterpillar that had originally passed in 2014, but was suspended pending an appeals process. The resolution calls on the university to drop its investments in any company that "profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestine."
- In October 2015 the Human Rights Commission of the city of Portland, Oregon, endorsed a letter asking the city's Socially Responsible Investments Committee to recommend placing Caterpillar on the city's "Do Not Buy" list due to its complicity in "serious human rights violations in the ongoing illegal and brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land."
- In June 2014, the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly voted to divest from Caterpillar, citing eight years of unsuccessful engagement with the corporation over its involvement in home demolitions and other human rights violations in Israel/Palestine.
- As of 2013, nine regional bodies of the United Methodist Church had passed resolutions against Caterpillar. In 2005, the Church began engaging Caterpillar over its sales contracts with the Israeli military.
- In June 2012, pension fund TIAA-CREF removed Caterpillar from its Social Choice Account after Caterpillar's ESG rating was downgraded over the "use of the company's equipment in the occupied Palestinian Territories."
- In April 2012, the Friends Fiduciary Corporation (Quakers) removed Caterpillar from its list of socially responsible corporations, stating that “Caterpillar sells bulldozers to the Israeli army to be weaponized and used in the systematic demolition of Palestinian homes and civilian infrastructure.”
- In 2010 The Evergreen State College student body passed a resolution declaring the school a "CAT-free Zone, prohibiting the use of Caterpillar Inc. equipment on campus," due to the company's complicity in Evergreen student Rachel Corrie's murder, as well as the deaths of Palestinian civilians, destruction of Palestinian property, and building "Israel's Annexation Wall, which was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004."
- In February 2009, the Church of England announced that it had "withdrawn its investments" in Caterpillar after the Israeli military assault on Gaza.
- Dutch Triodos Bank affirmed in 2008 that it “excludes companies that contribute to the continuation of the occupation, like...Caterpillar."
Caterpillar has also been the target of numerous college campus campaigns. Some of the student council divestment resolutions:
- In November 2015 the student government at San Jose State University voted to divest from "companies that play an active role in the human rights violations committed by the Israeli Government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" including Caterpillar.
- In November 2015, the University of California Santa Cruz student government reinstated a divestment resolution against Caterpillar that had originally passed in 2014, but was suspended pending an appeals process. The resolution calls on the university to drop its investments in any company that "profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestine."
- Princeton graduate students passed a referendum in May 2015 calling on the university to divest from companies such as Caterpillar as it is "complicit in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip."
- In May 2015 the Olgethorpe University Student Senate passed a resolution to divest from Caterpillar “based on evidence of their active role in human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
- In April 2015 the Student Senate of Earham College passed a resolution in support of divestment from "companies directly involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine," including Caterpillar.
- Stanford University students passed a resolution in February 2015 urging divestment from Caterpillar among other “companies implicated in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, many of which facilitate parallel injury against communities of color here in the United States.”
- Northwestern University students voted to divest from Caterpillar in February 2015, citing its involvement in settlement expansion.
- In February 2015 the University of California Student Association, the official governing assembly of all University of California students, passed a resolution calling for the university to divest from companies “that violate Palestinian human rights,” specifically mentioning Caterpillar.
- In January 2015 the UC Davis student senate passed a divestment resolution urging the university to drop investments in Caterpillar because it “provides the Israeli military bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian property, including houses, refugee camps, basic infrastructure, and agriculture.” The bill was later repealed based on a constitutional technicality.
- Students at UC Los Angeles passed a resolution to divest from Caterpillar in November 2014, for Caterpillar’s “continually providing engineering tools and bulldozers routinely used in the demolition of Palestinian homes, refugee camps, water cisterns, and agricultural fields in the West Bank and Gaza”
- A 2014 referendum passed by students at DePaul University decreed that Caterpillar “profit[s] from Israel's violation of the human rights of Palestinians and minorities within Israel.”
- UC Riverside's undergraduate student council voted to divest in 2014 because of Caterpillar’s “providing engineering tools and bulldozers routinely used in the demolition of Palestinian homes, refugee camps, water cisterns, and agricultural fields.”
- Loyola University in Chicago passed a 2014 divestment resolution stating that “Caterpillar sustains the occupation by providing tools and bulldozers to destroy Palestinian infrastructure such as homes, neighborhoods, and agricultural fields.”
- Students at UC Santa Cruz in 2014 Caterpillar’s “tools have been used in demolitions of Palestinians' houses in the occupied territories, in the construction of the separation wall and settlements on Palestinian land, in military incursions and as weapons.”
- The University of Michigan Dearborn student senate voted in 2014 to create an advisory committee to examine Caterpillar because it “produces and sells bulldozers that the Israeli military uses to demolish Palestinian homes.”
- Wesleyan University’s student senate in 2014 voted to divest student endowment from Caterpillar “complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestine.”
- In 2014, the University of New Mexico’s Graduate and Professional Student Association voted to divest from Caterpillar, because it “has...provided engineering tools and bulldozers to expand illegal settlements and construct the Separation Wall and checkpoints throughout the West Bank.”
- UC San Diego's student senate voted to divest in March 2013, stating “Caterpillar-provided D9 bulldozers are used against Palestinian civilians and peace activists, including the murder of Evergreen College student Rachel Corrie.”
- UC Berkeley, in April 2013, passed a resolution against Caterpillar because it “has helped sustain the illegal occupation by providing bulldozers and engineering tools used to destroy Palestinian homes and farmland.”
- The Oberlin College student senate voted to divest from Caterpillar in May 2013, due to “injustices perpetrated on the Palestinian people by Israel.”
- Undergraduate students at Arizona State University, in June 2012, voted to divest from and blacklist Caterpillar due to its “complicit[y] in human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian Territories.”
- In November of 2012, the Associated Students at UC Irvine voted unanimously to divest from Caterpillar, citing its use of “engineering tools and bulldozers to destroy Palestinian houses, neighborhoods (in refugee camps), agriculture, and water cisterns.”
- In November 2012, the Brown University Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies recommended that Brown divest from Caterpillar and other companies which are "profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories."
- In 2009, the Board of Trustees at Hampshire College, following a two-year student campaign, approved divestment from Caterpillar due to “human rights concerns in occupied Palestine.”