There is no excuse to be silent over the role of companies linked to Israel’s illegal actions in the occupied Palestinian territory and its war in Gaza.

At Norway’s largest private pension fund, KLP, we have decided to divest from United States industrial group Caterpillar over concerns about its role in human rights abuses in occupied Palestine.

KLP has previously divested from companies linked to the illegal Israeli settlements and the separation wall in the West Bank following the important United Nations report on businesses linked to settlements.

Caterpillar’s D9 series bulldozers are imported to Israel by Israeli Tractors and Equipment (ITE), part of Zoko Enterprises. In partnership with the Israeli military’s Technology and Maintenance Corps, Zoko Enterprises has rebuilt these machines with vehicle-mounted weapons and armoured drivers’ cabins for use in the occupied Palestinian territory. The widely used Caterpillar D9R bulldozers weigh around 62 tonnes, are four metres tall and wide, and eight metres long.

The constant use of these weaponised bulldozers in the occupied Palestinian territory has led to a series of human rights warnings from United Nations agencies, and nongovernmental organisations over the last two decades about the company’s involvement in the demolition of Palestinian homes and infrastructure.

On June 20, UN human rights experts called on Caterpillar and weapons companies like BAE Systems to immediately stop the transfer of weapons and other military equipment to Israel as they may constitute serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws, risking complicity in international crimes, possibly including genocide. This demand is in line with recent calls from the Human Rights Council and the independent UN experts to states to cease sending military equipment to Israel even if executed under existing export licences.

Around 100 Caterpillar D9R bulldozers were reported to be used in Gaza at the beginning of the latest war, after October 7. In December 2023, the Israeli forces were accused of using bulldozers to bury alive civilians outside the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya in Gaza following a nine-day siege. The NGO Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has demanded an investigation into the allegations.

Throughout 2022 and 2023, there have been reports of Caterpillar bulldozers being used in the attacks on homes, refugee camps and infrastructure in the West Bank.

KLP considers that such use of bulldozers both paves the way for and worsens the human rights abuses taking place, since such use may be both effective and injurious to people. Even though Caterpillar does not sell equipment directly to the Israeli military, the company has been made aware of how its equipment is being used. This has also gone on for a long time and in a steadily worsening situation, without the company being able to demonstrate that it has performed enhanced due diligence assessments or made any real changes. The time aspect indicates that the company is unwilling to do very much.

On the basis of the information available, it is therefore impossible to assert that the company has implemented adequate measures to avoid becoming involved in future norm violations.

These extensive reports of violations come against the backdrop of a broad international consensus that West Bank settlements violate international law including the UN Charter on using force to acquire territory. An occupying power transferring its own civilian population into territory it occupies is a war crime under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The International Criminal Court also deems this a war crime.

When KLP has previously divested from Motorola, Israeli banks, construction and engineering, energy and communication companies linked to the illegal Israeli settlements and the illegal separation wall in the West Bank, we were vocal.

When we blacklisted companies producing controversial weapons globally such as Elbit, Rolls-Royce and Thales, and when we pulled out of Russian companies, and Adani over its role in Myanmar, we were also vocal. 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. Blacklisting Caterpillar and others linked to illegal settlements should become the norm for pension funds who claim to care about human rights.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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