Israel-based civil rights group informs Fortune 100 pension giant against divestment proposal

Apr 10, 2013, 09:00 ET from Israel Law Center

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Tel Aviv-based civil rights group Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center has written the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) today to inform them that the adoption of a resolution boycotting Israeli firms and investments would be in direct violation of New York and Federal law. Recently, anti-Israel activists from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, submitted a resolution to the TIAA-CREF calling upon it to divest from Israeli companies.  The resolution will be voted upon at the fund's upcoming membership meeting.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the director of Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, stressed that if the TIAA- CREF adopts the resolution it would be officially taking an extremely hostile position against the Jewish State and its companies and unfairly involving itself in the Middle East conflict.  

"Considering that the TIAA-CREF's corporate charter limits its proper function to conducting business 'to aid and strengthen nonprofit colleges, universities' we do not understand how a biased and malicious resolution like this can properly be presented to their membership. The resolution violates standing laws, is contrary to public policy and must be abandoned," Darshan-Leitner added.

In a letter sent to the pension giant's executives, Darshan-Leitner pointed out 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" is unlawful and even places secondary actors, aiding the policy, under liability.

The letter noted 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." The BDS boycott of Israel is an extension of the continuing Arab boycott of Israel.

Darshan-Leitner noted that if the anti-Israel group succeeds in having the resolution to go to a vote, she hopes that TIAA-CREF's officers and directors will ensure that the voting participants understand that the resolution compels the TIAA-CREF to do something illegal and that, even if the resolution passes, the pension fund will be unable to comply.

"If the resolution passes and TIAA-CREF does not expressly disown itself of the results, Shurat HaDin will be ready to take immediate action to ensure the enforcement of New York's anti-discrimination laws, take all steps to ensure enforcement of Federal anti-boycott laws and act to ensure that Israeli companies are not financially harmed nor discriminated against," she said.

TIAA-CREF, a Fortune 100 financial services group, is the leading retirement provider for employees in the academic and medical fields, currently serving over 3.7 million people.

Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center is an Israel-based organization dedicated to enforcing basic human rights through the legal system and represents victims of terrorism in courtrooms around the world. Its clients include American, European, and Israeli citizens. It is unaffiliated with any political party or governmental body.

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SOURCE Israel Law Center