Letters for the week of April 14-20, 2004 

Readers object to the trivialization of protest at Caterpillar dealer, except one reader, who applauds. And John George officials respond.

"Bum-Rushing the Bulldozers," Cityside, 3/24

Weapons of mass destruction found in San Leandro
Justin Berton, in his coverage of the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) action at the Peterson Caterpillar dealership on the one-year anniversary of Rachel Corrie's death, seems to go out of his way to trivialize both the importance of this action and the organizational efforts that produced it. It is important for readers to know that this action was only one element of JVP's effort to put pressure on the Caterpillar corporation to stop allowing these vehicles to be used as weapons of mass destruction in the West Bank and Gaza.

JVP has been instrumental, along with the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Loretto, in helping to bring a shareholder resolution to Caterpillar's annual meeting demanding that CAT investigate whether its bulldozers have been used in an illegal manner by the Israeli government. This is the first such shareholder resolution to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Caterpillar leadership thinks this is important enough of a challenge that they have requested meetings with those sponsoring the resolution.

Why are we doing this? Caterpillar sells their vehicles to the US government, which then sells them to Israel as military vehicles. Once in Israeli hands, these bulldozers are armor-plated and have a machine gun cupola installed. Since they are military vehicles, they come under the auspices of the US Arms Export Control Act, which has strong conditions for the use of US military equipment; most notable are prohibitions against use on civilian targets.

Thousands of Palestinian homes (and olive orchards) have been either bulldozed or blown up by the IDF since 1967. These bulldozers have been involved in the deaths of more than a few people, including Rachel Corrie. JVP has decided to help Caterpillar at all levels (from local dealerships to the Caterpillar governing board) to think more clearly about its own role in such illegal and immoral destruction.

The JVP-sponsored action which took place during a working day last week gathered sixty-plus activists. Far from being a flaky event, getting so many people out on a weekday, everyone from bus drivers to university professors, was quite impressive. Our goal in this specific instance was to let one of the nation's largest CAT dealerships know that we are here, that we are quite principled and determined in our opposition to the misuse of their bulldozers, and that even though the events are taking place half a world away, we are emphasizing that responsibility begins at home. Justin Berton's sarcasm toward this local level of involvement does an injustice to the very real connection between what we do here and what happens over there. Indeed, the fact that $3 billion of our tax money goes to Israel every year, most of it military, much of it used to prosecute an illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, implicates all of us in Palestinian, and for that matter, Israeli suffering.

I am a five-year member of JVP and spent five weeks in 2002 as an ISM activist in the West Bank.
Robert Lipton, Ph.D, Prevention Research Center, Berkeley

Bull for bulldozers
Thanks for that hilarious account by Justin Berton of the simpletons who protested at Peterson Tractor. Indeed, no one should be fooled by the name "Jewish Voice for Peace." These pro-Palestinian propagandists regularly justify their heroes' tactics of murdering Jews via homicide bombs. Some "Voice for Peace"! And as the Express report amply demonstrated, like the ideologically-impaired listeners of the anti-Israeli drivel on KPFA, these people fail to comprehend that they speak only to and for themselves.

As for that poor "martyr" Rachel Corrie, she worked for the International Solidarity Movement -- an organization Mother Jones reported to be infamous for hiding suicide bombers as well as the leader of Islamic Jihad. But such unpleasant truths never register on either the ethically-challenged Jewish Voice for Peace, or Berkeley's own city council -- which recently canonized Corrie.

In sum, one might say that to cry crocodile tears for Corrie is just so much bull for bulldozers.
Dan Spitzer, Berkeley

Another Jew for peace
I was surprised that Justin Berton's article was written in a tone that made light of what is a serious subject.

Why would Justin choose to make fun of a group of people so outraged by the actions, that they are willing to spend the time and effort necessary to organize and carry out a nonviolent protest aimed at bringing attention to the situation and pressuring Caterpillar to investigate whether their equipment is being used to violate human rights?


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