About 60 people gathered at the Morristown headquarters of the Honeywell Corporation on June 21, hoping to shame the technology giant into ending its business in Iran.
Protesters waved placards and shouted, “Honeywell, get out of Iran, now!” Some cars driving by on Columbia Turnpike tooted their horns in support.
The protest was organized by No Nukes for Iran, an organization founded by a group of local teenagers and cosponsored by United Against a Nuclear Iran.
“We have launched a national movement that is determined to protect the very nature of world peace,” Danielle Flaum, an incoming senior at Millburn High School who spearheaded the rally, announced to the gathering. “We need to use all our resources to stop companies from doing business with Iran. The time is now!”
Honeywell has been targeted because it is the only company with headquarters in New Jersey doing business in Iran, according to David Ibsen, coalitions director for UANI, which maintains a database of about 250 businesses operating in Iran.
There are “about five or six” other companies on the list that do extensive business in the state that he said might be targeted, including Lukoil.
Honeywell has a subsidiary, Universal Oil Products, that is engaged in expanding and upgrading the Arak refinery in Iran. It also receives $12.6 billion in subsidies from the United States federal government.
It may have been the first time a local company has been directly confronted about its business in Iran.
The rally was supported by the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, American Jewish Committee, and StandWithUs.
“Hopefully if enough people turn out to rally against them, the tides will start to turn and people will stop looking to Honeywell as such a great corporation,” Flaum told NJJN before the rally.
Melanie Gorelick, MetroWest CRC associate director, called Iran the organization’s “number one issue.” The CRC is urging Congress to impose sanctions on companies doing business in Iran through their subsidiaries and is urging businesses with a presence in New Jersey to divest from Iran.
Jim Daniels, chair of the MetroWest CRC’s Stop Iran Now Coalition, called Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons “a grave and growing national security threat.”
“Ahmadinejad’s access to nuclear weaponry and his ever expanding support of terror groups around the world…cannot be ignored,” said Daniels. “A nuclear Iran will change the balance of power, in the world, as we know it.”
In a letter addressed to David Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell, Flaum, on behalf of No Nukes for Iran, urged him to end its business dealings with Iran. The letter requests a meeting with Honeywell. So far, she has not received a response.
When questioned about Flaum’s letter, Honeywell spokesperson Robert Ferris wrote in an e-mail to NJJN, “We always reply to letters.”
He also provided a statement in response to other questions from NJJN: “Honeywell is compliant with all U.S. laws and with all laws in every country where we operate. We have committed to accept no new assignments in Iran in anticipation of a change in U.S. law, but are legally obligated to complete work under current contract. Should U.S. law change and prevent the company from fulfilling its contractual obligations, we will fully comply.”
Protesters came to the rally from around New Jersey. They were joined by a group from an evangelical church in upstate New York with ties to the MetroWest CRC.
Rabbi Dr. Eric Lankin, chief of institutional advancement and education at Jewish National Fund and a resident of Highland Park, said he and his 14-year-old son Ben attended the rally as private citizens.
“We Jews remember quite well that it was the rallies that we had in cities across the world that brought down the Soviet Union and freed a million Soviet Jews,” he said. “We want to start a movement not only in our area but in areas all over the country where there are companies doing business with Iran.”
Larry Slavin of Rockaway attended the rally with his wife, Helen. “It’s important for every American to fight against Iran getting nuclear weapons,” he said. “It’s bad for the whole world.”
For others, like Evelyn Shaw of Scotch Plains, the campaign has a specifically Jewish component.
“The Jewish community didn’t believe what Hitler said, and the Americans didn’t believe what Hitler said. But he was serious,” Shaw said. “And Ahmadinejad is serious, and we should believe what he says. That’s why I’m here today: to do everything that I can in my power to stop the nuclear threat that Iran represents to Israel and to the world.”
Ferne Hassan, associate director of American Jewish Committee’s NJ Area, urged Honeywell stockholders to look beyond their wallets.
“I think stockholders would respect that the stock may not make as much for them — but what will they be spending their money on if we’re all blown to smithereens?” she said.