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

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.