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Announcement :: Protest Activity

Statement at a Caterpillar Plant

Ben Price's statement which was read at a Caterpillar parts distribution plant at a protest in Pennsylvania on 12/6/03.
December 6th, 2003
York, Pennsylvania

The D-9 Caterpillar bulldozer looks like a machine that might be used for earthmoving. But it's better known for its use as a weapon of significant destruction. It is first and foremost an up-rooter and displacer of people and lives.

Here is a piece of machinery that is sold to the Israeli Defense Force by the Caterpillar Corporation with the understanding that it will be "weaponized." Once retrofitted with plate armor and bulletproof glass, these ground shaking turret-less tanks are used to inflict collective punishment on Palestinian people who are unfortunate enough to be related to or acquainted with suspected militants. There is no due process. There are no legal options to appeal the sentence of imposed homelessness. There is simply an ongoing escalation in the level of human misery as the D-9 Bulldozer goes about its assigned tasks.

The presumably nice people who run the Caterpillar company will likely argue that how their products are used once purchased is not their responsibility. They are in the business of making heavy machinery, and they have a responsibility to their stockholders to create a profit.

What's missing from such face-saving rationalizations is adherence to their own code of conduct, which states: "As a global company we can use our strength and resources to improve, and in some cases rebuild, the lives of our neighbors around the world."

Needless to say, the way the D-9 is misused by the IDF contradicts these high-minded goals. But who will enforce the Caterpillar Corporation's code of conduct if they won't live up to it? If it is only a cocoon of insulating words that serve a Public Relations goal, who can challenge this global company with all its strength and resources to compel it to community accountability?


You may as well ask: "why are we here today, gathered at their doorstep?

The fact is that we have a responsibility to oversee the behavior of our corporate creations. Caterpillar and other large companies are not "corporate citizens" with rights to be protected against critics from the community. They are tools of commerce, granted charters of incorporation by one of the 50 states. And they can be held to account by the people for behavior that is unethical, illegal, or harmful to the community.

The conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian people cannot be resolved by allowing companies chartered in our states and responsible to our communities to continue arming either faction. And let me say unequivocally that our call for the Caterpillar corporation to stop the sale of D-9 bulldozers to the Israeli Defense Force is in no way a condemnation of the Jewish people. We are here to alert our neighbors that a business venture that has benefited from locating in our community has engaged in the sale of machinery that is used for the purpose of increasing human misery in the world.

Ours is an act of conscience and a call to our neighbors to rise above the every day acceptance of profit from brutality. A worldwide boycott of trade with apartheid South Africa helped make the policies of that nation front-page news. A system of repression that had been kept out of sight and out of mind was no longer allowed to thrive in the shadow of universal neglect. A change of government and of repressive policies eventually followed.

Just as the INS detainees at York prison have been relegated to the status of "out of sight, out of mind," profit-making by American corporations who supply tools used by the Israeli government in a policy of collective punishment requires that not turn our heads and close our eyes. We must stand witness. It is our duty as moral beings to shine the light of human attention on these acts of villainy. It is time to ask our neighbors in York and across the nation to join us as we raise our voices and proclaim that we do not support continued trade in machines and munitions that are used against innocent people, no matter who uses them.

Let me be clear: we have in our community a prison that holds people innocent of criminal behavior, and we find that it offends the letter and spirit of liberty and justice. We have in our community a corporate presence that profits from the sale of D-9 bulldozers that are used to destroy the homes of people not proven to have participated in violence. And we believe that corporations chartered by any of the states of this nation have a responsibility that goes beyond profit making. They have a duty to act without harming the community or bringing shame upon it. Now, if we had an industry in our community that was engaged in arming Palestinian suicide bombers who target children and civilians, we would be marching there next and calling for an end to their trafficking in instruments of death and misery!

We are stating some unpopular truths today. And we are breaking with common expectations that demonstrations for human rights should all occur in Washington DC. But changing expectations and the status quo that permits us to go about our daily routines while ignoring the ways our hometowns help nourish a growing system of inhumanity - these are luxuries of innocence that we can no longer afford. This event is about awakening an understanding of what part our community plays in increasing human misery throughout the world. First we have to recognize the role we play in the systematic manufacture of profit from harm. Then we can begin to dismantle it.

When Martin Luther King took as his calling the awakening of the American people to the violation of civil rights for a whole class of people, he went first to the hometowns where racism was taken for granted as a community norm. He took his case to the people, where the real source of government legitimacy lies. And only after he had spoken to the people did he gather them together to go to Washington and call on their representatives to change the course of human history and halt the indignities of segregation, the American apartheid.

We do not gather here today to take sides in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We come here to say that we as members of the community no longer want to participate in arming either side against the other. We are not here to engage in a debate over their differences or over the legitimacy of one side's claims over the other's. We are here to effect a change in the part of this conflict that has a real, physical presence in our community.

And so we speak to the hearts and minds of the people who direct the Caterpillar Corporation. And we speak to the minds and the hearts of our neighbors who work for the Caterpillar Corporation. And we speak to the responsibilities of each of them and to those of our local political leaders. Let us end that portion of trade that goes to increase the suffering and misery of any people. If we are moral beings, if we are not mere creatures acting on our appetites to increase our wealth and comfort, then we can do no less.

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