NYU students and faculty call on pension giant TIAA-CREF to divest from the US-backed Israeli occupation
For questions or comment please contact NYU Students for Justice in Palestine
On Tuesday 5 April 2011 seventy-one NYU faculty and staff and dozens of students called on TIAA-CREF – a pension fund used by NYU employees – to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars from companies that profit from the US-backed Israeli occupation.
At 12noon on Tuesday 5 April a rally was held outside the NYU main library on West 4th Street in downtown Manhattan, as the start of a three-day demonstration. Present at the rally and throughout the week will be a large wooden “mock apartheid wall” – representing the illegal Separation Wall, built inside Palestinian territory – that symbolizes the dispossession of Palestinians from their land and the systematic discrimination they face on a daily basis. As noted below, Motorola and Elbit, two of the companies targeted, generate surveillance equipment used along the wall to monitor Palestinian activity. The three-day demonstration will aim to distribute information and collect signatures for a general petition drive from the NYU community.
The call is part of a new campaign organized by NYU Students for Justice in Palestine (NYU SJP) in collaboration with other groups nationwide. The campaign currently focuses on five companies in which TIAA-CREF holds significant investments and whose equipment plays essential roles in the ongoing occupation; these companies are: Caterpillar, Northrop Grumman, Elbit, Motorola, and Veolia.
Each of the five companies was chosen for its special role in the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people.
· Caterpillar’s armored bulldozers routinely demolish Palestinians’ homes and uproot their olive trees; TIAA-CREF invests $287 million. (Figures are as of June 2010).
· Motorola manufactures surveillance equipment that Israel uses at checkpoints, watchtowers, settlements, and sniper stations throughout the West Bank and at its illegal Separation Wall; TIAA-CREF invests $92 million.
· Northrop Grumman built helicopters and missiles used to kill Lebanese and Palestinian civilians and destroy basic infrastructure; TIAA-CREF invests $199 million.
· Elbit Systems manufactures drones that Israel has used in the deliberate killing of civilians in the West Bank and Gaza; TIAA-CREF has over $1.6 million invested.
· Veolia helps construct a light rail system connecting annexed East Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank; TIAA-CREF has $19 million invested.
The campaign was chosen because the above corporations directly facilitate the systematic and unambiguous violation of Palestinian rights as defined under international law (in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949). TIAA-CREF – whose motto is “For the Greater Good” – prides itself on its record of social responsibility. These investments undermine such a claim.
NYU SJP’s TIAA-CREF campaign is based on, and collaborates with, Jewish Voice for Peace’s TIAA-CREF campaign. That effort has collected over 21,000 signatures calling for TIAA-CREF to divest from companies that profit from the occupation.
NYU students feel optimistic about the campaign. Organizer Emily Field said, “SJP has received a very positive response from professors we’ve initially contacted. We feel that there is broad support on campus for our efforts. The TIAA-CREF campaign is one that many people feel happy about joining.”
Organizer Gilad Isaacs agreed, saying that the campaign’s initial success shows that those who oppose justice for the Palestinians are increasingly marginal at NYU. “This is the right campaign at the right time,” he said. “SJP meetings are packed and energized; students and faculty are behind us – we’re confident that our campaign can ultimately help make a meaningful contribution towards justice in Palestine. This rally is an outstanding first step for our group and our campaign.”
The rally is endorsed by the following groups: Jewish Voice for Peace, NYU Radical Film & Lecture Series, NYU Arab Students United, NYU International Socialist Organization, Adalah-NY, Al Awda, Hunter College SJP, Palestinian Club – Brooklyn College, Existence is Resistance, PalestinianGandhis.org, Siegebusters, and U.S. Boat to Gaza.
For more information about the campaign, including videos with comments by Professors Jeff Goodwin and Stephen Shalom, NYU SJP student leader and organizer Ava Houshmand, and activist Sherry Wolf please visit: https://nyusjp.wordpress.com/campaign/
For the full text of the letter including the current signatures see below or please visit: https://nyusjp.wordpress.com/letter-to-tiaa-cref/
For more information on the broader Jewish Voice for Peace campaign targeting TIAA-CREF please visit: wedivest.org
Find photos below:
Professor Andrew Ross, calling for divestment (NYU Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis)
Mock Israeli Apartheid wall with students holding signs pointing to the crimes of Northrop Grumman and Veolia
Three student activists
The crowd with signs targeting all five companies