Some students are calling for the University to divest from the Caterpillar Corp.as part of Palestinian Land Day – a day commemorating the death of six Palestinians who were killed by Israeli security during a demonstration 28 years ago. Caterpillar bulldozers are used by the Israeli army in the occupied territories.
Students Allied for Freedom and Equality is urging students to write to University President Mary Sue Coleman, asking her to use the school’s investment as leverage to pressure Caterpillar to cease their sale of bulldozers to Israel. “University policy clearly states that moral and ethical concerns are taken into consideration when getting an account in their investment portfolios,” SAFE Chair Fadi Kiblawi said. “So there is framework there for divestment in line with University policy.”
Students are also encouraged to contact Caterpillar directly to protest bulldozer sales in Israel. Focus on bulldozers being used as a weapon increased after American peace activist Rachel Corrie was recently killed by a bulldozer.
“We are hoping the University forms an advisory committee to research the moral implications of investing in Caterpillar,” Kiblawi said.
But University spokeswoman Nancy Connell said divesting is a long and public process. “Divesting is something that requires regents to act and would take deliberation,” Connell said.
The last time the University regents divested was in 1978 from companies who engaged in business in South Africa due to the country’s Apartheid policies.
But not all students are in favor of divestment as a way to influence companies.
Co-Chair of the American Movement for Israel Avi Jacobson said Palestinian Land Day is being exploited to push a dishonest campaign. “In practical terms, if this divestment push would ever be successful, it’s only to economically destroy the State of Israel, which ultimately hurts Palestinian people because their economies are so intertwined,” Jacobson said.
Divestment supporters say Caterpillar should stop selling the bulldozers to the Israeli military in order to coincide with the company’s own ethical code to “use their resources to improve the lives of our neighbors around the world.”
“When pressure is put on Caterpillar to stop selling bulldozers to Israel, they usually respond by saying they are not responsible for the use of bulldozers after sold while ignoring their ethical policies,” Kiblawi said. Caterpillar Corp. was not available to comment.