This is huge.
In the most significant Israel divestment milestone to date, the MSCI (Morgan Stanley Capital International) World Socially Responsible Index recently removed Caterpillar from its list. Shortly thereafter, financial retirement fund giant TIAA-CREF divested Caterpillar from its portfolio as well!
Did I say this was huge? CAT has been a target of divestment activists for many years – and rightly so. The company has come under increasing criticism from human rights organizations for continuing to supply bulldozers to Israel, which uses them to demolish Palestinian civilian homes and destroy crops and agricultural land in the occupied territories. In the succinct words of Amnesty International: “Thousands of families have had their homes and possessions destroyed under the blades of the Israeli army’s US-made Caterpillar bulldozers.”
This is only the beginning. Last month, the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation, divested $900,000 in shares of Caterpillar. And earlier this month the undergraduate student government at Arizona State University, unanimously passed a bill demanding that ASU divest from and blacklist all companies that continue to provide the IDF with weapons and militarized equipment. All this in advance of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Pittsburgh later this month, in which church commissioners will vote on a motion to divest from Caterpillar and two other companies (Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard) that profit from Israel’s occupation.
To those who say that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement will not succeed, stay tuned. This is precisely how movements get started. A few significant victories and the dominoes begin to fall more rapidly. Individual actions such as this may have more symbolic than financial impact, but don’t discount the power of symbolic victories. History has taught us again and again that nonviolent direct action has the power, step by step, to leverage real and lasting political change.
Israel continues its brutal occupation and settlement policy with impunity and no government (notably our own) seems able or willing to hold it to account.
Just watch as people power moves in to fill the vacuum.