Jul 272011

Campaign calls for divestment in the Israeli occupation

NoC News

Activists with the “We Divest” campaign delivered a censored ballot to the office of TIAA-CREF in Lexington on July 19, as the company held its annual shareholder meeting in Charlotte, NC.

TIAA-CREF is the “Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund,” a multi-billion dollar investment company.

At its shareholders meeting on July 19, CREF refused to allow a vote on a resolution submitted by nearly 20 shareholders. The resolution calls upon CREF to engage in discussions with corporations in its portfolios that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and to consider divesting from those companies if the discussions do not bear fruit.

The resolution asks TIAA-CREF to engage in discussions with corporations, including Caterpillar, Veolia, and Northup Grumman, that profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Those companies facilitate the demolition of Palestinian homes; operate segregated “Jews-only” transportation systems; and make bombs and drone aircraft that Israel uses to kill civilians and destroy homes, schools, and hospitals.

We Divest activists said TIAA-CREF is the premier retirement fund for educators, health professionals, and others who prize open discourse and democratic institutions, but the fund is denying its investors the opportunity to voice their opinions about how their own money is being used to support the Israeli occupation.

The We Divest campaign was initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace—the largest U.S.-based grassroots organization dedicated to promoting full equality, democracy, and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians.  The campaign is endorsed by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, as well as over 30 other organizations worldwide. The We Divest petition has been signed by over 21,000 people.

Photo by Russ Greenleaf

Tom Moffett of Louisville and Sonja De Vries of Louisville Jewish Voice for Peace call for divestment. Photo by Russ Greenleaf.

Sonja De Vries, protest participant and organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace, said: “We are calling for divestment from corporations that profit from the Israeli occupation. When we divested from apartheid South Africa, it brought peace. The Montgomery bus boycott brought civil rights. Boycotts and divestment have enormous power as a force for positive change. I view the global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as the most promising way to bring a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Stefanie Fox, Organizing Director at Jewish Voice for Peace, said: “[This] action in Lexington is just one of dozens of actions taking place nationwide. These actions show TIAA-CREF that the grassroots movement for full equality and human rights in Israel/Palestine exists everywhere. They might try to run, but they can’t hide.”

Aaron Levitt, TIAA-CREF investor, said: “I thought that as an investor in a company with democratic values and systems—such as shareholder resolutions—my voice would be included when I have a concern to raise about what my money is funding. I expected this even more from a financial institution that claims to offer ‘financial services for the greater good’ and has a history of divestment. I have learned that this is not so with TIAA-CREF, the retirement fund giant which divested from companies doing business in Darfur, but continues to invest money in companies such as Caterpillar, Veolia, and Elbit, that operate in the West Bank and East Jerusalem demolishing homes, confiscating land, and contributing to settlement expansion.”

For more information on the We Divest campaign contact: www.jvp.org  or  http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org. You can also contact Russ Greenleaf of the Louisville chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace at 256-525-5290 or russgreenleaf@yahoo.com.

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