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...

  • Blogs Book Reviews The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    Romirowsky and Joffe’s book Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief is an important volume for those interested in truly understanding the origins of the Palestinian refugee issue. Utilizing a treasure trove of newly released documents, the authors link UNRWA’s (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) origins to the Quakers/American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). For those readers who thought they knew most of the Middle East story, Romirowsky and Joffe’s version provides another twist. The authors meticulously [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.