Parents of peace activist killed by Israeli bulldozer target Caterpillar

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The Independent Online

From boots to baseball caps, the Caterpillar fashion range is marketed as upmarket outdoor wear for label-conscious youth.

From boots to baseball caps, the Caterpillar fashion range is marketed as upmarket outdoor wear for label-conscious youth.

But customers are now being urged to boycott the construction and clothing company because it supplies bulldozers to the Israeli government, which uses the vehicles to destroy Palestinian homes, roads and olive groves. They have also been used to build the controversial "security wall" which has attracted international opprobrium.

Campaigners held an international day of action yesterday against Caterpillar, with demonstrations outside British plants and "flashmobbing" of the company's shops where protesters asked to try on shoes then sat reading a report that detailed the firm's alleged complicity in Israeli human rights abuses.

Craig and Cindy Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist who was crushed and killed by an army-driven Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, are backing the boycott. Yesterday they handed in a copy of the report by the lobby group War on Want to the John Lewis department store in Oxford Street.

John Lewis and the high street chain River Island are among the stockists of the clothing range.

Mr and Mrs Corrie announced last month that they are suing Caterpillar for violating the Geneva Convention and American torture laws in allowing its equipment to be used against the Palestinian people and their homes.

Mrs Corrie said: "Stores should not be selling Caterpillar clothing and people should not be buying it because of what is happening in Israel.

"Our daughter was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer and in the last four years, a tenth of the population of Rafah have lost their homes as a result of Cat bulldozers being used by the military."

She added: "The company knows what is going on, but they have refused to meet with us or to do anything about our concerns.

"Rachel was always in favour of direct action, and people should realise that this is something they can do to register their protest against Caterpillar."

The Corries were in London for last night's opening of a play based on their daughter's life and writing.

The Caterpillar boycott is backed by more than 20 campaign groups and charities. They claim that more than 50,000 Palestinians have been made homeless by the Israeli army's use of Caterpillar D9 armoured bulldozers in the last four years.

Water wells, schools and hundreds of thousands of trees have been razed by the Israeli army.

The equipment has also been used to destroy ancient olive groves and roads in the West Bank and to construct the security wall cut into Palestinian territories which has been condemned by the International Court of Justice.

Louise Richards, chief executive of War on Want, said: "Caterpillar provides the Israeli military with bulldozers, knowing full well that they will be used for house demolitions in Palestine.

"We are asking people to boycott their range of clothing and other products until they stop the supply of equipment to Israel's military."

Caterpillar Incorporated made more than £1bn in profit last year.

The Israeli army has more than 100 D9 bulldozers in use and recently placed an order for a further 25 vehicles.

A spokesman for the firm said: "Caterpillar shares the world's concern over unrest in the Middle East and we certainly have compassion for all those affected by the political strife.

"However, more than two million Caterpillar machines and engines are at work in virtually every country and region of the world each day.

"We have neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use of that equipment.

The Caterpillar campaign comes at a time when consumers are increasingly being urged to shun stores and companies that are said to have a bad ethical record.

Lobby groups such as No Sweat have been effective in highlighting the exploitation of low-paid workers in developing countries where highly profitable brands such as Nike and Gap have factories.

Boycotts and campaigns against Gap led last year to the company revoking contracts with more than 100 factories in Mexico, China, Russia and India because of their exploitation of staff and poor working conditions.

War on Want plans to publish reports similar to the Caterpillar dossier on the supermarket giant Wal-Mart, notorious for its anti-union practices and Nestlé, which has been accused of breaking rules against the marketing of baby milk in developing countries.

The unethical wardrobe: What not to wear

CATERPILLAR BASEBALL CAP

Sold in major outlets such as John Lewis and River Island, the clothing range has youth appeal, but has helped bolster the profits of a company that sells bulldozers to the Israeli government which uses them to destroy Palestinian homes and roads.

FRENCH CONNECTION TOP

It prides itself on its boho fashions and cheeky T-shirt slogans, but the Rough Guide to Ethical Shopping has slated French Connection for its "feeble" code relating to factory standards and suppliers, while the lobby group Labour Behind the Label says the firm has refused to reply to concerns about sweatshops.

TESCO JEANS

The supermarket posted record profits this week and caused a price war when it began selling jeans for £3, but critics say that its aggressive cost-cutting and expansion has been at the expense of low-paid workers abroad, while the firm has also been slated for the way it treats British farmers and suppliers.

NIKE TRAINERS

The sportswear giant has long been one of the biggest targets for ethical campaigners, who claim the company uses children and low-paid workers to make its products, while spending millions on advertising. The campaign group Sweatshop Watch says an average Nike worker would have to put in 72,000 years of labour to receive what the golfer Tiger Woods was paid for a five-year sponsorship contract.

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