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Norway Pension Fund Divests From Caterpillar, Whose Bulldozers Are Used by IDF

The group sold shares and bonds worth $69 million in the Texas-based company this month.

An Israeli contractor's Caterpillar 330B LME hydraulic excavator grabs a load of soil and rocks as it clears the path of Israel's separation fence on Palestinian land on July 1, 2004, in the West Bank village of Az-Zawiya.

Norway’s largest private pension fund has divested from Texas-based company Caterpillar, citing concerns about Israel’s use of Caterpillar bulldozers to commit war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank.

The group, KLP, sold shares and bonds worth $69 million this month, Bloomberg reports, as the company has moved to divest from companies that support the development of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, particularly in the West Bank.

“The constant use of these weaponized bulldozers in the occupied Palestinian territory has led to a series of human rights warnings from United Nations agencies, and nongovernmental organizations over the last two decades about the company’s involvement in the demolition of Palestinian homes and infrastructure,” wrote KLP’s head of responsible investments, Kiran Aziz, in an op-ed about the decision.

It is “impossible to assert that [Caterpillar] has implemented adequate measures to avoid becoming involved in future norm violations,” Aziz wrote, noting that the company is aware that its equipment is being used by Israeli forces.

For decades, Israel has used Caterpillar’s D9 bulldozers to advance its occupation in Palestine, with Israeli forces demolishing hundreds of buildings and homes each year. The bulldozers are outfitted with military equipment and weapons after they’re imported to Israel by the military and Israeli company Zoko Enterprises.

In one particularly infamous case from 2003, an Israeli soldier operating a Caterpillar bulldozer ran over and killed pro-Palestinian American activist Rachel Corrie while she was protesting the demolition of homes in Gaza.

In recent months, there have been several incidents of Israeli forces using bulldozers to commit acts of violence against Palestinians in Gaza, including in December, when Al Jazeera reported that Israeli bulldozers trampled and buried alive dozens of wounded and sick Palestinians taking shelter outside Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza.

As Israel has drastically escalated its violence in Gaza since October, it has also been intensifying its annexation of and bloodshed in the West Bank, as strategized by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. The recent escalation in violence has elevated the risk of Caterpillar equipment being used to commit yet more serious human rights violations against Palestinians, KLP said, as evidenced by the “extensive” reports of war crimes committed by Israeli forces.

Caterpillar has long been a target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement due to Israeli use of its equipment, and the company has previously been cited by the UN human rights office as being involved in enabling illegal Jewish settlements.

As reasoning for its decision this month, KLP cited a statement last week by a group of 30 UN human rights experts that named Caterpillar as a company risking being complicit in serious violations of human rights law due to its support of Israel, along with U.S. arms manufacturers like Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin, and institutional investors like Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and State Farm.

“There is no excuse to be silent over the role of companies linked to Israel’s illegal actions in the occupied territory and its war in Gaza,” Aziz wrote. “Blacklisting Caterpillar and others linked to illegal settlements should become the norm for pension funds who claim to care about human rights.”

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