JVP challenges attempts to keep BDS resolution off TIAA-CREF shareholder ballot

Here’s yesterday’s release from Jewish Voice for Peace:

[New York, April 21, 2011] Earlier today, Jewish Voice for Peace responded to retirement giant TIAA-CREF’s efforts to thwart a shareholder resolution asking it to engage with companies in its portfolio that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Despite having built a reputation based on commitment to shareholder democracy, TIAA- CREF asked the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) to bar its shareholders from seeing and voting on the shareholder proposal, arguing that the proposal is unnecessary, as it already has a human rights investment policy and would unduly interfere with daily business operations.

The resolution was filed by close to 20 TIAA-CREF shareholders including Columbia professor and Focus Films studio head James Schamus; Prof Emerita, Dept of Psychology at San Diego State Evalyn Segal; noted American mountaineer and Professor of Physiology and Biochemistry/Biophysics at UCSF, Louis Reichardt; Harvard professor of pediatrics Dr. Wayne Lencer; and many more.

In a sharply-worded response filed on behalf of Jewish Voice for Peace, attorney Paul M. Neuhauser noted that the SEC has consistently treated just such human rights proposals not as interference with daily business, but as “significant policy issues” that shareholders are entitled to review and vote on; that the proposal is not unnecessary, given TIAA-CREF’s failure to act in any way on its human rights policy except to comply with the government-mandated boycott against the Sudan;  that proposals  “concerning human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories” are not misleading, but instead have already been ruled by the SEC to raise significant policy issues; and that the resolution asks TIAA-CREF only to engage in the very sort of “quiet diplomacy” that is its preferred approach, where “there is not one iota of evidence that CREF has actually engaged in any ‘quiet diplomacy’ with respect to the issue at hand.”

Aaron Levitt, TIAA-CREF participant, “Our resolution asks TIAA-CREF to engage with companies that profit from the Israeli occupation, to ask them to change course or face divestment next year. We think it’s reasonable, fair, and takes an important stand for justice.”

The resolution asks TIAA-CREF to “engage with corporations in its portfolio, such as Caterpillar, Veolia, and Elbit, that operate on the West Bank and East Jerusalem with the goal of ending all practices by which they profit from the Israeli occupation,” and to “consider divesting as soon as market conditions permit” if the ensuing year of such efforts fails to produce a commitment to cooperate.

The resolution filers represent thousands of other TIAA-CREF shareholders who, as part of an ongoing Jewish Voice for Peace campaign, have signed a statement expressing concern that their retirement funds are invested with companies that profit  from harming others as part of the 44-year Israeli occupation.

Other components of the Jewish Voice for Peace campaign include a nationwide tour of two Palestinian colleges students discussing the barriers to education while living under Israeli occupation, and in-person protests at dozens of TIAA-CREF offices nationwide. [For more info, visit wedivest.org]

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.