Tuesday, March 1, 2016

An Open Letter to Portland's Socially Responsible Investments Committee

When I spoke at your February meeting, I shared that the OR/ID Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church had voted in June of last year to divest from Caterpillar (as well as Motorola Solutions and Hewlett Packard) because of its violations of human rights in the (illegally) Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Wall in Tulkarm has kept Palestinians from the Mediterranean since 2002
I am now writing as an individual, to share my personal experiences as a human rights observer in Palestine.  In the spring of 2013, I spent three months with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI – see eappi-us.org).  During that time, I lived in the Palestinian city of Tulkarm, in the northern West Bank.  As the crow flies, Tulkarm was about 12 miles from the Mediterranean Sea – but few of the city’s residents had ever been to the seaside – and none since 2002, when the Wall was built on Tulkarm’s western border.  That wall was built with the assistance of Caterpillar bulldozers.

My “duties” while working in Palestine included monitoring checkpoints for workers, agricultural checkpoints and school checkpoints, the latter two of which were needed to allow people living in the “seam zone” (the “no man’s land” area between the Wall and the Israeli “border”) to access their farm land and their schools.  Again – artificial barriers (not to mention a “land grab!”) erected with the help of Caterpillar!

Caterpillar bulldozers destroy Palestinian olive trees
Another (unpleasant) duty was to monitor incursions by the Israeli military into Palestinian land to uproot olive trees and demolish homes.  My teammates and I had to stand by while these actions took place – powerless to intervene – and then try to console the people whose property had been destroyed (by – you guessed it! – Caterpillar bulldozers).

You have been hearing a lot about Caterpillar’s violations of human rights – about the large number of homes destroyed, trees uprooted, etc.  What I can add is that if one Palestinian home is saved, if one olive tree continues to bloom, that would be a major contribution toward peace in the Middle East – and it is a contribution that the City of Portland can and should make!

No comments:

Post a Comment