Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

Caterpillar runs into an obstacle


Just in from the We Divest Campaign:

Pension fund giant TIAA-CREF [a US pension fund management firm for people in academic, medical, cultural, governmental and research fields] has removed Caterpillar, Inc. from its Social Choice Funds portfolio.  As of May 1, 2012, financial data posted on TIAA-CREF’s website valued Social Choice Funds shares in Caterpillar at $72,943,861.  Today it is zero.

Israeli Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, at work in Palestine

“We applaud this decision,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, Director of Campaigns at Jewish Voice for Peace and National Coordinator of the We Divest Campaign.  “It’s long past time that TIAA-CREF began living up to its motto of ‘Financial Services for the Greater Good’ when it comes to the people of Israel and Palestine.”

Since 2010, We Divest has been urging TIAA-CREF to drop Caterpillar and other companies profiting from and facilitating Israel’s 45-year-old military occupation and colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.

“By selling weaponized bulldozers to Israel, Caterpillar is complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights,” said Rabbi Wise. “We’re glad to see that the socially responsible investment community appears to be recognizing this and is starting to take appropriate action.”

Caterpillar has come under increasing criticism from human rights organizations in recent years for continuing to supply bulldozers to Israel, which uses them to demolish Palestinian civilian homes and destroy crops and agricultural land in the occupied territories, and to build illegal, Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land.

On the same day, June 21, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation announced that Caterpillar has been removed from the MSCI World Socially Responsible Index, a list used by Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds to determine acceptable companies for investment.  MSCI offers investment advice to 6,200 clients around the world, from pension plans to “boutique hedge funds.”

Last month, Friends Fiduciary, a Quaker institution, divested $900,000 worth of shares in Caterpillar stating: “We are uncomfortable defending our position on this stock.”

Next week, at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Pittsburgh, church commissioners will vote on a motion to divest from Caterpillar and two other companies, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard, which also profit from Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.

The motion follows years of thwarted attempts by the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) to negotiate with Caterpillar before calling for selective divestment.  The Committee’s  report notes that “Caterpillar’s complicity in non-peaceful pursuits led the 2010 General Assembly to denounce the company’s profiting from involvement in human rights violations.  Sadly, despite significant support for the shareholder resolution calling for a review of its human rights policy, Caterpillar has become even more intransigent.  It has cut off all communication with the religious shareholders. Caterpillar continues to accept no responsibility for the end use of their products.”

Author: Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.

2 thoughts on “Caterpillar runs into an obstacle

  1. This is useful information. The flow of news of this kind on this issue is important to some of us here in the North of England. Although no doubt we SHOULD know a lot more about this – the campaign to encourage divestment from companies whose actions support the occupation, – some of us dont know as much as we should. It is also helpful that the quotes you provide in support of the divestment include the voices of Rabbis and other Jews from Israel. It is so easy to be accused of anti semitism if one raises criticism of the Occupation. Please keep the information coming. Alan


  2. Wow!! So nice to get some good news! I hope the Presbyterians do the right thing next week. Little by little it’s amazing what can be accomplished. Mary


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