February 7, 2013
TIAA-CREF Shareholders File Resolution Asking for Divestment from Israel’s Occupation
WHEN: Today (February 7) from 8:30 AM to 9:30 AM ET
WHERE: In front of the TIAA-CREF headquarters, 730 Third Ave (at 45th St.), New York City
NEW YORK - Clients of pension fund giant TIAA-CREF and supporters will gather in front of the company’s New York offices this morning to support the filing of a shareholder resolution asking trustees to end investments in companies that contribute to or enable serious human rights violations, including companies whose products support Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Joining them will be Omar Barghouti, one of the founders and leaders of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee.
“For many of us, this is a matter of personal responsibility. Our very own money is being invested by TIAA-CREF against our will to support companies such as Veolia, which operate segregated buses in the West Bank. We are forced to profit from segregation, discrimination, and other Israeli human rights abuses. It’s not only a matter of our individual consciences, TIAA-CREF has a corporate obligation to live up to its motto: Financial Services for the Greater Good,” said Steve Tamari, a Palestinian-American educator and member of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, representing hundreds of CREF filers.
Veolia operates a light rail that connects illegal West Bank settlements to Jerusalem, and a landfill in the occupied West Bank that processes and dumps waste materials from Israeli settlements in violation of international law and a UN General Assembly Resolution. The granting of a city contract to Veolia in St. Louis has been hotly contested in part because of these concerns.
The issue of divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands has been a growing matter of discussion among church groups and on university campuses across the country. The CREF shareholder resolution, however, will be the largest Israel/Palestine divestment referendum to date in the United States, when it will come to a vote this summer.
Just last week a UN report called on companies to suspend operations that aid in the establishment or maintenance of Israeli settlements. This followed another UN report released last fall calling for a boycott of such companies, mentioning by name some currently in TIAA-CREF’s portfolios. In 2012, TIAA-CREF sold over $70 million in Caterpillar Inc. shares following Caterpillar’s downgrading by ethical investment ratings agency MSCI. In a statement, MSCI said that one of the “key factors” in Caterpillar’s downgrading was “on-going controversy associated with use of the company’s equipment in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
This campaign is organized by the We Divest coalition, a common project of Adalah-NY, the American Friends Service Committee, Grassroots International, Jewish Voice for Peace, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and the US Palestinian Community Network.