Students shouting, “divest from Cater-killer” – referring to the Caterpillar Corp. bulldozers used by the Israeli army – rallied on the steps of the Michigan Union yesterday. Promoting awareness of their campaign for the withdrawal of University investments in Caterpillar, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality members marched to the Diag holding a banner reading “Free Palestine.”
Focus on Caterpillar’s bulldozers – which students say are used as weapons and tools for home demolition in the occupied territories – increased after American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed by a bulldozer last month.
SAFE encouraged students to write University President Mary Sue Coleman, asking her to use the school’s investment as leverage to pressure Caterpillar, with the hope of ending its sale of bulldozers to Israel.
But University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said she is unaware of any official requests sent directly to the University calling for divestment.
“University policy in regards to divestment issues sets a high bar to make a decision,” Peterson said. “Divesting is a substantive process.”
Ann Arbor resident Yumm Elkhoja said she joined the rally because she does not want students to forget the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the war in Iraq.
“By divesting, it’s symbolic that we are not going to support these bulldozers that are used to kill unjustly,” Elkhoja said. “Regardless of who is dying, we cannot support an investment that helps pay for the bulldozers.”
Benjamin Cordani, Caterpillar representative for social responsibility, said although it shares in the world’s concern for the Middle East, the American-based corporation does not have the legal rights or means to know every Caterpillar machine or engine is being used for.
“It up to our elected leaders to find a solution for peace, not the private companies,” Cordani said.
Next week, the Michigan Student Assembly will vote on a resolution in support of divesting from Caterpillar. If passed, the resolution could provide more momentum to the divestment call.
LSA sophomore Fayrouz Saad said divesting from Caterpillar is important because it is part of a larger campaign for the University to divest from Israel.
“Every little bit counts, we may be only one school but it can motivate other schools to help the cause,” Saad said.