Jewish Voice for Peace
For Immediate Release
June 25, 2018
In the aftermath of Israeli snipers killing more than 130 civilians and wounding thousands in Gaza, the Portland chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, a human rights organization, is raising questions about a local company that may have direct links to the carnage.
“At this point we are merely asking the CEO and Legal Department at Leupold and Stevens to determine whether their rifle scopes have been used in actions that violate international law,” explained Rod Such, a member of the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. “We hope the owners and managers of Leupold and Stevens will agree that knowingly selling equipment used in the unlawful killing of civilians or in any conduct involving human rights abuses or other actions illegal under international law is entirely unacceptable.”
The letter (appended below) to Leupold and Stevens CEO Bruce T. Pettet explains the basis for local concern, referring to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. According to these principles, companies are obliged to practice due diligence to prevent their products from being used in ways that violate international law.
“Obviously, we believe the use of sniper rifles equipped with telescopic sights to deliberately shoot to kill and grievously injure unarmed civilians – including children, medical personnel and journalists – is a clear violation of international law,” said Carol Landsman, another member of the Jewish Voice for Peace chapter. “It’s rarely so clear and well documented as it has been in recent weeks in Gaza.”
A May 15, 2017 article by Eyal Goguslavsky in the online newsletter Israel Defense reports that “[t]he IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] Ground Arm has selected American-made Leupold telescopes (manufactured by the Leupold & Stevens Corporation) as their telescopic sight of choice for ground forces snipers.” The article reports that “[t]he IDF has recently acquired the new Leupold Mark-6 telescopes and by the end of 2017 will have about 800 units in service.” (http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/29612)
Since the “Great March of Return” protests in Gaza began in March of this year, Israeli forces have shot dead 131 Palestinians and wounded 13,900, of which 7,548 have been hospitalized. Only one Israeli soldier received a minor injury. Nearly all these killings and injuries were carried out by Israeli snipers operating under rules of engagement that allowed the use of lethal force against noncombatants, a flagrant violation of international law.
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June 21, 2018
Mr. Bruce T. Pettet
Chief Executive Officer and President
Leupold and Stevens Inc.
14400 NW Greenbrier Pkwy
Beaverton, OR 97006
Dear Mr. Pettet,
We wish to call your attention to actions by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the Occupied territory of Gaza from March 31, 2018, to the present, in which IDF snipers using telescopic sights have killed an estimated 132 unarmed Palestinian protesters and have injured thousands more. As a result of these and other actions, the Palestinian Authority has filed a formal complaint with the International Criminal Court at The Hague for violations of the Rome Statute. The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted 29-2 for an international inquiry into the Gaza shootings. And the United Nations General Assembly voted 120-8 to condemn Israel’s “excessive use of force.”
In 2017 the IDF Ground Arm selected Leupold telescopes made by your company as its telescopic sight of choice for sniper ground arms. The IDF was expected to have 800 units of the Leupold Mark-6 in service by the end of 2017. News reports indicate that your company sells telescopic sights to the militaries of several countries, including Israel.
Under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, your company is obligated to practice “due diligence” to ensure that your products are not used in violations of international law. Firing on unarmed demonstrators violates The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
The Portland chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace is requesting that you ask your Legal Department to conduct “due diligence” by inquiring of the IDF whether any of your telescopic sights were used by IDF snipers to shoot at unarmed protesters who posed no lethal threat to IDF forces.
Your Legal Department also ought to examine whether the IDF is using Leupold telescopes to enforce an illegal occupation on the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Human rights and international law experts believe the Israeli occupation violates the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its population to occupied territory. The Fourth Geneva Convention is a treaty signed by the United States government which is therefore regarded as U.S. law.
We would also like to meet with you to discuss the moral impropriety of having a business relationship with a foreign military service such as the IDF which has been charged with violations of international law and international humanitarian law on many occasions and as a result of its ongoing illegal occupation. This relationship is likely to be damaging to your company’s reputation and therefore does not make good business sense.
The sources below document our claim of human rights violations and our contention that your company is obligated to practice “due diligence” to avoid being complicit in human rights violations and violations of international law. Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response and our request for a meeting.
Kevin Hayes, attorney at law
Rod Such, coordinating committee, Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland chapter
David Newman, coordinating committee, Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland chapter
Carol Landsman, coordinating committee, Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland chapter
Announcement of contract with IDF
News report on Leupold and Stevens business with IDF
United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Portland community sentiment
UN Human Rights Council votes to investigate Gaza deaths
United Nations General Assembly vote
Human Rights Watch: Israel’s actions in Gaza may amount to war crimes
Palestinian journalist killed by IDF rifle fire
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
Palestinian Authority files complaint with International Criminal Court
Medical reports on Gaza injuries
Caterpillar fails to pay due diligence to Israeli human rights violations