Congratulations to the UW graduating class of 2013! We – your fellow students, faculty, alumni, and members of the greater Seattle community – write to recognize your achievement but, also, to share with you and with commencement speaker, Jon Huntsman, our serious concerns about Mr. Huntsman’s connection to Caterpillar Inc. and to human rights abuses in Palestine/Israel.
The University of Washington has invited Jon Huntsman to give the Commencement keynote address that will set the tone for graduates’ first steps into their post-university lives. We know Mr. Huntsman most recently as one of the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls. But in addition to a long and prestigious career in American politics, Jon Huntsman serves on the board of Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), an American firm that manufactures and distributes bulldozers and civil engineering tools. The CAT logo has become ubiquitous on most construction sites around the country. Most students are not familiar with CAT bulldozers that are part of the daily lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
For decades, CAT has sold specially militarized equipment to the Government of Israel used in the systematic demolition of Palestinian homes, the death and injury of unarmed Palestinian and international civilians, the uprooting of olive trees and destruction of agricultural land, and the expropriation of Palestinian territory through the construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements and a separation-annexation wall. Amnesty International, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch have all reported on and denounced Israel’s breaches of international humanitarian law and CAT’s complicity in human rights violations. The CAT brand and its bulldozers have become a symbol of destruction in Palestine.