These words close the rationale of Newark Presbytery’s overture on divestment from Caterpillar, Inc. This overture came into existence following the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee meeting in Cincinnati in November 2009, where four of us from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Israel Palestine Mission Network sat as observers. Faced with the undeniable reality that CAT was not cooperating with the process of corporate engagement, and with no likelihood that it would, a decision was made by MRTI to try and come up with something that would sound like the PC(USA) was taking Caterpillar, Inc., to task and yet not go as far as divestment.
Three successive General Assemblies over six years have made it clear that the options in regard to companies profiting from the Israeli occupation in Palestine are either corporate engagement or divestment. MRTI, with all the evidence now in, still found itself unable to take the necessary stand in fear of facing controversy. At this same meeting committee members openly discussed that the Presbyterian Foundation and Board of Pensions had actually been divested from CAT for at least a year because its stock was not doing well on the market. They then bought back into CAT when the stock began to rebound. As a business enterprise we are fluid when it looks like something will cost us money; as a church we are clumsy and slow when called upon to take a stand against injustice.
At that meeting, it was revealed that during the Gaza war the Israel Defense Force actually enlisted Caterpillar, Inc. employees in Israel to tow disabled bulldozers from the battle zone in order to fix them and get them back into service as fast as possible. CAT’s argument that all it does is sell bulldozers and cannot control what is done with them falls apart on this point alone. Ironically, CAT recently announced that bulldozers will no longer be sold to Iran (Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2010) in order to control use of its product in ways that are inconsistent with its business philosophy and policies (or perhaps when pressured by the U.S. Government?). The Goldstone Report to the U.N. regarding the Gaza war makes it more than clear that D-9 CAT bulldozers were a primary tool in the Israeli assault (pp. 210-214).
There is now plenty of evidence to indicate that CAT bulldozers, at least in regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, have clearly become weapons of war. It is a long-standing policy of the PC(USA) not to invest in warfare. By our own moral compass we are compelled to stop doing business with a corporation that has made it clear it will do business any way it pleases. At its annual meeting in 2009, when faced with the protests of dissident share holders and activists (like, Jewish Voice for Peace) demanding that Caterpillar, Inc., stop doing business with the Israeli military, the company’s CEO said: “If you don’t like how CAT does business, you don’t have to hold your shares.”
Permission has been granted. Denouncement, either from MRTI or the Middle East Study Committee, is not good enough. Public denouncement is not corporate engagement, and is not the mandate that has repeatedly been given by successive General Assemblies that have, in essence, said, “corporate engagement or divestment, no other options.” Since 2006 Caterpillar, Inc., has established a pattern of “making nice” with MRTI leading up to meetings of the General Assembly and then returning to business-as-usual immediately after securing the vote to continue corporate engagement rather than to divest.
This year is the time and Minneapolis is the place for Presbyterians to look honestly at all the evidence and take a moral stand to stop investing in occupation, human misery, and war. If we can divest for economic reasons without any notice or backlash, and we do not divest for moral reasons, what does that say about us? What does it say about who or what we value the most: the mighty dollar or Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, our Lord, and Savior of the world?
Jeffrey G. DeYoe is pastor of Worthington Church, Worthington, Ohio.