We learned that retirement giant TIAA-CREF has dropped all 73 million dollars in Caterpillar stocks from their socially responsible investment fund.
This is a watershed victory: we've been campaigning for this change because Caterpillar bulldozers have been used to destroy thousands of Palestinian homes and orchards. But we can’t stop here. The movement to pressure Israel to be accountable to international law is now on the verge of a historic breakthrough at the Presbyterian General Assembly in Pittsburgh next week.
The Presbyterian Church (USA), one of the largest Protestant denominations in the US, will be meeting to decide whether to divest from Caterpillar and a few other companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. This is by far the most contested divestment vote in the US, and our pro-occupation opponents will be out in full force. There is a very good chance we’ll win, but we’re not taking any chances.
We need your help to send a large delegation of Jewish activists—including myself, Rabbi Alissa Wise, and many of our Young, Jewish and Proud leaders— to Pittsburgh. We don’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars for paid ads or celebrity speakers that our opponents have—but we do have committed, knowledgeable and dedicated Jews who can walk the aisles side by side with our Palestinian allies and tell Presbyterian voters face to face to go with their conscience and vote on behalf of justice for all people.
Sydney Levy, Director of Advocacy Jewish Voice for Peace
What Others are Saying:
Omar Barghouti, Palestinian human rights activist and founding member of the BDS movement said, “CAT is out of the bag of TIAA-CREF’s socially responsible companies thanks to the inspiring campaign waged by JVP and its partners, with vision, persistence and tactical skillfulness. Palestinian civil society, represented by the BDS National Committee (BNC), deeply appreciates these efforts and believes that more pressure will ultimately convince TIAA-CREF to fulfill its basic moral obligation to finally divest from CAT and all other corporations that are complicit in Israel’s grave and escalating violations of international law and human rights.”
Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rachel Corrie’s parents said, “For nearly a decade, we have witnessed human rights abuses committed with Caterpillar equipment in the West Bank and Gaza and have joined thousands who have asked the company to stop supporting these actions. We are hugely gratified that TIAA-CREF has taken this step. When governments and corporations avoid responsibility, we must refuse to profit from their abuses. Our family salutes and thanks TIAA-CREF for this decision that moves all of us closer to accountability.”
Jennifer Bing, Middle East Program Director of the Chicago office of the American Friends Service Committee, a member organization of the We Divest Campaign Coordinating Committee, said, “As a TIAA-CREF client institution which has divested from Caterpillar ourselves, we are encouraged to see this first, great step toward creating a complete occupation-free portfolio that my colleagues and I are eager to have as an investment option.”
Samia Shafi of Adalah-NY, a member organization of the We Divest Campaign Coordinating Committee, said, “This small, positive first step shows that TIAA-CREF is not immune to pressure for human rights for Palestinians. Our We Divest Campaign will continue pressuring TIAA-CREF until we win full divestment from all companies in TIAA-CREF’s portfolio that profit from violations of Palestinian human rights.”
Anna Baltzer, National Organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation — a coalition of more than 380 organizations around the country — and a member group of the We Divest Campaign Coordinating Committee, stated: “After years of Caterpillar refusing to change its practices, we are gratified that the U.S. corporation and others like it are seeing that support for Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies comes at a dear cost. There can be no more business as usual with such institutions. The tide is turning.”
The Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate with Caterpillar before calling for selective divestment. MRTI’s report on engagement with companies on Israel/Palestine-related issues noted that:
Caterpillar’s complicity in non-peaceful pursuits led the 2010 General Assembly to denounce the company’s profiting from involvement in human rights violations. Sadly, despite significant support for the shareholder resolution calling for a review of its human rights policy, Caterpillar has become even more intransigent. It has cut off all communication with the religious shareholders. Caterpillar continues to accept no responsibility for the end use of their products.
In 2004, Amnesty International urged Caterpillar to take action in response to the documented use of its bulldozers to violate international law in the occupied territories, noting that “thousands of families have had their homes and possessions destroyed under the blades of the Israeli army’s US-made Caterpillar bulldozers.”
Human Rights Watch, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Presbyterian Church USA have all made similar recommendations to Caterpillar, to no avail.
In 2003, a Caterpillar bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier killed American activist Rachel Corrie while she nonviolently protested the demolition of Palestinian homes in the town of Rafah, in Gaza.
P.S. The CREF shareholder meeting is just around the corner on July 17th, in New York City. If you are in NYC, let us know if you'd like to be part of the action that day. If you are not in NYC, that day is still a great day for organizing an action at your local TIAA-CREF office.