On June 24, the SUSTAIN Campaign, Free Palestine Alliance, and the Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine sent a letter to the Caterpillar Corporation asking that they halt all sales of equipment to the Israeli Defense Forces. As of July 8, we had not received any response from Caterpillar. Therefore we have decided to launch a campaign to expose Caterpillar's complicity in Israel's war crimes and pressure them to meet our demand of stopping all sales to the IDF.
The purpose of this letter is to 1) answer some of the key questions about the campaign, and 2) request your endorsement, support, and active participation in the campaign.
- Why Caterpillar?
Caterpillar supplies equipment used for war crimes. Indeed, little so vividly captures the brutality of occupation like the bulldozing of homes by the IDF with Caterpillar equipment. While there are many products that in one way or another support the occupation, one that is directly used in attacks on civilians is particularly likely to have an effect on world opinion.
Caterpillar's business with the IDF is a small part of their worldwide business. As a result, a demand that they publicly refuse any more sales to the IDF is one they can accept without doing substantial damage to their bottom line. Indeed, a large part of their business is with the Arab world. Caterpillar has far more to risk in losing business in the Arab world, than it does in losing IDF business.
Unlike military contractors, Caterpillar is vulnerable to public pressure. The majority of their business is to civilians, both in construction and agriculture. For this reason, Caterpillar is more susceptible to public pressure.
- Why the limited demands?
There are many ways one could expand this campaign: by demanding that all sales to Israel and Israeli companies be halted (after all, Caterpillar equipment is used for settlement construction also), by including other companies, etc. Our goal, however, is to keep the campaign simple and limited so as to maximize the number of groups that can join and to maximize the chance of a victory. Of course we do not intend to stop there. If we can win on this limited campaign, we will have forced a major corporation to acknowledge its role in supporting Israeli war crimes. Such an admission will have a profound effect on public opinion and make the next campaign that much easier.
- How will the campaign work?
There are some such campaigns already underway, not only here in the US but in Israel, and so we will be consulting with others and building on existing work. However, we also want to reach out to other groups and individuals who are not necessarily working on the issue of Palestine. Those involved in the anti-corporate globalization movement are one example. Another are trade unions. Caterpillar's relations with organized labor have been quite bad in the last decade. They are notorious for attempts at union busting. Thus, if we carry out our campaign correctly, we can make valuable connections to labor and bring a wider segment of labor into the Palestinian struggle.
Below is a general timeline we've sketched out for the first phase of the campaign:
- Month of July - Month will be spent publicizing the campaign, getting more groups and individuals to endorse and get actively involved, doing research on the company (sales, investors, partners, locations, etc.), putting together an organizing packet (informational flyer/fact sheet, petition, etc.), creating props, puppets and banners, and organizing press conference(s) at the end of the month.
- Wednesday, July 31: National and possibly international press conferences with main one at National Press Building in Washington, DC to officially launch campaign.
- Month of August: Begin escalating campaign, particularly as colleges and universities start up, with leafleting, postering, banner drops, and street theater outside of places which have some direct connection to Caterpillar (plants, dealerships, offices, transport facilities)
- First Week in September: National and international day of action involving pickets, rallies, street theater, and direct action, preferably at locations connected to Caterpillar.
- September 25 - September 29: Organize some type of national action targeting Caterpillar during the protests around the International Monetary Fund/World Bank fall meetings in Washington, DC. September 29 does, after all, mark the second anniversary of the intifada.
- What are we asking other organizations to do?
We would like others to be as involved in this campaign as possible. SUSTAIN does not want to "own" the campaign or its future development. Any group which shares the goals and agrees to the general framework of the campaign is invited to join us by either sending a message to StopCAT@mutualaid.org or calling us at 866 860 9311. We are asking groups and, where appropriate, individuals to:
1. Endorse the campaign;
2. Ask people to write, fax, email, call and, if possible, even visit a Caterpillar office, plant, dealership with the demands;
3. Publicize the campaign and how to get involved in your publications, mailings, listservs, websites, and at any public meetings;
4. Write letters to and put ads and/or public service announcements (PSAs) in your local paper, radio station, and public access TV stations about the campaign;
5. Organize regular leafleting, preferably with a banner, at a Caterpillar related site and/or at any public area with a lot of traffic;
6. Hold a press conference on July 31st with other interested groups to announce the launching of the campaign;
7. Together with other groups, organize some type of action (picket, rally, civil disobedience/direct action) to coincide with the day of action during the first week of September (see timeline above).
8. Organize people to come to Washington, DC on September 29 for a national action against Caterpillar and to mark the second anniversary of the intifada.
For more info, contact us at StopCAT@mutualaid.org
Resources: The CAT Campaign Action Kit
Background Articles: Should Corporations Care? The Caterpillar Conundrum, Business and Peace Don’t Mix: Caterpillar’s Role in Israel’s Demolition of Palestinian Homes, The Catepillar Effect, IDF Infrastructure Destruction by Bulldozer