April 30, 2011
Shareowners to Vote on Motorola's Human Rights Policy
by Robert Kropp
As charges of complicity with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands mount and organizations
call for divestment, ICCR members seek to reform the company's human rights policy with a
The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank has resulted in "serious violations of
international human rights and humanitarian law," and possibly crimes against humanity as well,
according to a report by the Unite
d Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. That Richard Goldstone, one of the
report's co-authors, subsequently retracted the statement that Israel had a high-level policy to
target civilians did nothing to undermine the findings of the report. It concluded "that Israel had
imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of
progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip."
According to Kenneth
Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch,
"Goldstone has not retreated from the report's allegation that Israel engaged in large-scale
attacks in violation of the laws of war. These attacks included Israel's indiscriminate use of
heavy artillery and white phosphorus in densely populated areas, and its massive and deliberate
destruction of civilian buildings and infrastructure without a lawful military reason. This
misconduct was so widespread and systematic that it clearly reflected Israeli policy."
is the case with most if not all human rights violations carried out by governments, those
conducted by Israel on Palestinian land could not have occurred without the complicity of
corporations. In his recently published Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie, the UN
Secretary-General's Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, made explicit reference
to "the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means to act with due diligence to
avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address adverse impacts that occur."
of several companies that have conducted business with the Israeli military is Motorola Solutions.
According to Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, Associate for Mission Responsibility Through Investment at the
Presbyterian Church (USA), "Motorola has a
wholly owned subsidiary called Motorola Israel, which was an R&D facility and also owned a cell
phone company. They had a number of direct relationships with the Israeli government. They sold the
government a telecommunications system called Mountain Rose, which was immediately adapted for use
by the military."
"They also sold the government a number of telecommunications devices,
including a high tech wide-area surveillance system, which has been installed at quite a few of the
settlements on the West Bank," Somplatsky-Jarman continued. "It has been designed to provide
security at many illegal settlements existing on private Palestinian land."
As a result of
Motorola's business activities in Israel, several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including
the US Campaign to End the Israeli
Occupation and Jewish Voice for Peace, have
called for public boycotts of Motorola products and divestment from the company by shareowners.
According to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Mountain Rose
telecommunications system "has allowed the Israeli military to coordinate incursions and assaults…
Mountain Rose also supports Israel’s regime of more than 600 checkpoints in the Occupied
For several years, a coalition of Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) members, led
by the Presbyterian Church, has chosen engagement with Motorola through shareowner resolutions
addressing the company's human rights policy. At Monday's upcoming annual meeting, the coalition
will once again call on Motorola to amend its "policies related to human rights that guide its
international and US operations to conform more fully with international human rights and
Somplatsky-Jarman told SocialFunds.com, "We've had this
resolution with Motorola Solutions for three or four years now. When we first started engaging the
company six years ago, they had a bare-bones human rights policy, which included everything from
equal employment to fair treatment on the job to contract supplier guidelines and so on. They
conducted a review but only modest changes were made."
"One issue they never engaged was
how this policy applies to contractual business relationships with governments," he continued.
"That's the issue we've tried to focus on. What's the obligation of a company when it's selling to
a government that is not protecting the human rights of its citizens or the people under its power?
We've encouraged Motorola to look at all the UN documents as well as international humanitarian
law, especially regarding their responsibilities in conflict zones."
As for the results
over the years of the coalition's engagement, Somplatsky-Jarman observed, "Unfortunately, after two
meetings Motorola chose not to have face-to-face meetings with us on this subject, so we have not
been able to engage these issues beyond the shareholder resolution on the proxy ballot."
Last year, the resolution gained approximately 12% of the vote of shareowners, enough to permit
it on the proxy ballot again this year.
"We're asking the company to review significant
human rights documents and make specific reference to them in their policy, and to develop more
concrete language about how they will operate in conflict zones where international law would be
applied," Somplatsky-Jarman said.
The coalition has also filed resolutions at ITT and
Caterpillar. According to Jewish Voices for Peace, "The office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights sent a letter to Caterpillar warning the company that the sale of its
bulldozers to Israel 'might involve complicity or acceptance on the part of your company to actual
and potential violations of human rights, including the right to food.'"
Somplatsky-Jarman said, "Caterpillar tried to challenge the resolution at the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC), arguing that it was too vague for them to know how to implement it." The
SEC denied Caterpillar's request for an exemption, and the resolution will be voted on by
shareowners at the company's annual meeting in June.
"Human rights is emerging globally as
a key issue that all companies are going to have to deal with, to effectively promote a culture of
human rights in all areas in which they operate globally," Somplatsky-Jarman said. "I think that is
what Ambassador Ruggie is trying to accomplish."