NEW YORK - Fifty New Yorkers gathered in the cold in front of TIAA-CREF national headquarters to show support for 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.
CREF shareholders, including a professor of peace and conflict studies, addressed the crowd, emphasizing that it is crucial that the retirement company let shareholders have a conversation about the human rights abuses their investments are supporting. Also present was Omar Barghouti, one of the founders and leaders of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee. Barghouti's evening talk with Judith Butler at Brooklyn College this evening has been the object of much recent controversy among local city officials and in the national media.
Barghouti thanked the protesters for their work, noting that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is growing rapidly. As the protesters chanted, “T-CREF, pay attention, no apartheid in our pension,” a delegation of CREF shareholders tried to enter the building to file their individual resolutions. The seven shareholders, four of whom joined the delegation spontaneously, were stopped from entering the building by security, who took their resolutions and promised they would be filed.
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.