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Pension Fund TIAA-CREF Declines to Vote for Israel Boycott

May 30, 2013 3:27 pm 11 comments
TIAA-CREF

TIAA-CREF logo. Photo: WikiCommons

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement suffered a major defeat on Thursday when Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) said it will not bring a BDS motion to its upcoming shareholder meeting.

The asset management giant, which manages $520 billion in pension funds, received approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to “take no action” on a submission by the BDS activists. This followed a warning issued to the company by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli civil rights group, that passage of the resolution would violate New York and Federal law.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center,
said her group discussed “concerns with the SEC and pointed out that the resolution was in violation of anti-boycott laws. We noted that TIAA-CREF’s corporate charter limited its functions to ‘aiding and strengthening nonprofit colleges, universities,’ and we could not understand how a biased resolution like this could properly be presented to their membership.”

TIAA-CREF manages pension funds on behalf of 3.7 million people, primarily from the non-profit academic, research, medical and cultural fields. The investment group has been the target of BDS activism since 2011.

The current BDS motion was filed by Jewish Voice of Peace and signed by 200 investors, requesting that shareholders be allowed to vote on the issue at TIAA-CREF’s July annual meeting.

Last month, Shurat HaDin informed TIAA-CREF’s leadership that any attempt to implement the boycott resolution would be illegal. The letter noted that New York law defines boycotts as “unlawful discriminatory practice” and that any decision to “refuse to buy from, sell to or trade with, or otherwise discriminate against any person, because of the…creed…[or] national origin” was unlawful and even places secondary actors, aiding the policy, under liability.

The letter pointed out that the Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976 also makes it a federal violation to “participate in or cooperate with an international boycott.”

Darshan-Leitner said that if measures were to be actually taken against Israel, Shurat HaDin would immediately file suit on behalf of Israeli businesses against TIAA-CREF and to ensure enforcement of state and Federal anti-discrimination laws.

“We seek to make sure Israeli companies are not harmed as a result of a newly-adopted policy of discrimination. The BDS movement was looking for a big public forum to spew their hatred. The SEC ruling has now put an end to all that. It is an important victory and we are grateful that the SEC gave TIAA-CREF authorization to ignore extremism,” Darshan-Leitner said.

In 2011, Jewish Voice for Peace filed a similar shareholder proposal calling for TIAA-CREF to divest from three companies doing business in the Jewish inhabited areas of Judea and Samaria — Caterpillar, Veolia Environment and Elbit. The matter was never heard by the fund’s shareholders after TIAA-CREF filed a complaint with the SEC.

According to the website Pensions and Investments, Sydney Levy, a spokesman for Jewish Voice for Peace, said the shareholder proposal was rewritten this year not to require divestiture of a specific company, an attempt to get around the SEC regulations.

11 Comments

  • Anybody who hasn’t lived in an Arab/Muslim country or had dealing with Islamic terrorists, doesn’t have the right to judge Israel …. Criticism based on life in America is absurd. I am not speaking based on book/media knowledge, I am speaking from first hand personal experience. Those who vilify Israel have a personal agenda and they should understand that Israel build walls to keep terrorists from coming in while Arab/Muslim countries build fences to keep their from escaping their lives in Hell. Ask the Christians in Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mali, Algeria, Somalia, Lebanon, West Bank, Gaza, Turkey and Libya just to name a few. The Jews for Peace should address their plight

  • Donald Siegel

    I applaud the decision of TIAA-CREF to not cave in to anti-Israel Jewish movements.

    I fully understand some of the difficulties Israel has with respect to Palestinians and hope over time these will be resolved. But the hypocrisy of the anti’s with respect to fairness and facts with respect to Israel exceeds almost anything else I’ve seen in my life in the political arena. Perhaps it might compare to Jews in American who downplayed Nazi attrocities in the 1930’s. I’d have to see.

  • Is it a condition of showing one’s love for Israel to call Jews critical of the 45 year occupation, indefinite detention, selling arms to tyrant governments, etc. self hating? These so called self haters also decried the world’s indifference to the plight of European Jews persecuted in the last century.

  • It is a shame that there is such a group as Jews for Peace. Self-hating Jews are the worst.

    • The problem is that they call themselves “Voice of Peace” while advocating for a movement that even Norman Finklestein describes as a cult whose goal would result in untold bloodshed (ie: a one state solution under an Islamist government)

  • Sydell Ruth

    Best news I have read in a long time I wish I could email it to the world!Hurrah for Israel and shame on every Jew supprting the boycott. They should realize the issue is not the settlements but the acceptance of Israel as a state by the Arabs.The onus should be on the Palestinians not the Israelis who have already given up Gaza and look what happened.Do “Jews for Peace” really believe that if the Israelis gave up the settlements and threw in Tel Aviv and Haifa in the bargain,the Arabs would accept Israel Wake up”Jewish Voice forPeace”,there were Jews who rationalized that Hitler was good for Germany-until it was to late to stop him

  • I have been a participating person with earnings contributing to TIAA-CREF for years while working at a university. I would not want to remain associated with any organization that boycotts Israel.

    jt

  • Janet Truman

    I have been a participating person with earnings contributing to TIAA-CREF for years while working at a university. I would not want to remain associated with any organization that boycotts Israel.

    I’m pleased the decision made was one of virtue.

    JT

  • Thank you Joshua for this article. I have some funds deposited with this organization, and I am right proud of them taking a stand for Israel.

  • E.S.Lombard

    I am a US/Israeli TIAA/CREF member and was fearful that you might capitulate. I feel good that you understood your obligation. Cordially, ESLombard

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