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Professors urge TIAA-CREF to divest from company involved in West Bank settlements

Written by admin  •  Saturday, 19.09.2009, 16:22
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Adalah-NY, an advocacy group pushing for TIAA-CREF to divest stock holdings in Africa-Israel Investments Ltd., a company involved in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, issued a news release overnight stating that TIAA-CREF had in fact already sold the stock in question.

The Adalah-NY statement said that TIAA-CREF had posted a report indicating that the stock had been sold “sometime in the last 10 days,” while a letter demanding divestment was being circulated to TIAA-CREF participants.

“Adalah-NY did not recognize that this new report came online in the last days,” the statement said. “Adalah-NY takes full responsibility for providing out-of-date information to those who signed the letter, who recruited colleagues to sign, and who spoke with the media about the letter.”

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[The original article follows.]

About 50 current and retired professors with retirement funds managed by TIAA-CREF have signed a letter calling on the pension giant to divest itself of holdings in Africa-Israel Investments Ltd., an international group that has built in some of the controversial Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The letter is part of a larger campaign by a New York-based group, Adalah-NY, against Africa-Israel Investments for what Adalah described as human-rights violations made possible by the investment group’s activities, said Alexis Stern, a member of Adalah-NY.

But this afternoon a TIAA-CREF spokesman said the pension company “no longer owns shares in Africa-Israel Investments Ltd.” The spokesman, Chad Peterson, said that, “earlier this year, the CREF Stock Account had an extremely small investment” in Africa-Israel, but the holding has since been sold.

Later this afternoon, TIAA-CREF posted a statement on its Web site reiterating Mr. Peterson’s assertions and noting that the “small number of shares” of Africa-Israel have not been part of the CREF account since June 30, when they were dropped from an emerging-markets index that the account tracks.

Joel Beinin, a professor of modern Middle East history at Stanford University, said that TIAA-CREF had a history of choosing socially responsible investments, and that other retirement and pension funds in Europe had recently divested from Africa-Israel.

“It’s not a clean company in general,” said Mr. Beinin, referring to Africa-Israel Investments.

Ms. Stern said Adalah-NY had not yet received a formal response from TIAA-CREF, formally the Teachers Insurance Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund. In all, 86 holders of TIAA-CREF accounts signed the letter.

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