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Following Hawking’s Israel Boycott: TIAA-CREF and Other Companies
The Boston Globe editorialized over the weekend: “When the esteemed physicist Stephen Hawking announced his decision to boycott Israel’s Presidential Conference, a gathering of politicians, scholars, and other high-profile figures scheduled for June, the response was as predictable as the movement of the cosmos that inspired Hawking’s career. The conference chair, Israel Maimon, called the move ‘outrageous and improper,’ while Omar Barghouti, a founder of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement that advocates protests against Israeli policies, declared, ‘Palestinians deeply appreciate Stephen Hawking’s support.’
“In fact, the decision to withdraw from a conference is a reasonable way to express one’s political views. Observers need not agree with Hawking’s position in order to understand and even respect his choice. The movement that Hawking has signed on to aims to place pressure on Israel through peaceful means. In the context of a Mideast conflict that has caused so much destruction and cost so many lives, nonviolence is something to be encouraged. That is equally true of attempts to inspire cooperation on the Palestinian side.
“Chances for a peaceful solution in Israel and Palestine are remote enough without overreactions like Maimon’s. Foreclosing nonviolent avenues to give people a political voice — and maybe bring about an eventual resolution — only makes what is already difficult that much more challenging.”
ALANA KRIVO-KAUFMAN, alana at jvp.org
Krivo-Kaufman is with the We Divest Coalition. She can also arrange interviews with student activists. The group put out a statement about actions today: “At 4 p.m., student activists will be protesting outside of TIAA-CREF’s national headquarters. … Students from colleges throughout the New York metropolitan area will be calling for TIAA-CREF, one of the largest retirement funds in the country, to divest from all companies benefiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” See: thefuturedivests.tumblr.com.
Students involved in the actions include:
Carolyn Klaasen, Jewish Voice for Peace-NY Chapter, Union Theological Seminary: “We are future doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, and non-profit employees. As future professionals, we are future pension holders and TIAA-CREF clients. TIAA-CREF prides itself on socially responsible investing. We are gravely concerned with TIAA-CREF’s investments in corporations profiting from egregious human rights abuses.”
Sundus Seif, Students for Justice in Palestine, Brooklyn College: “On Feb. 7, more than 200 shareholders filed a resolution to divest from Veolia, a corporation that provides segregated transportation services to Israeli settlers living on Palestinian land in the West Bank. TIAA-CREF’s challenge of the resolution at the SEC contradicts its stated commitment to socially responsible investing and shareholder advocacy. Ultimately, we will remember if TIAA-CREF demonstrated a commitment to socially responsible investing in Israel-Palestine when we choose our retirement fund.”
See report from The Real News: “Hawking and the Growing Israel Boycott Movement.”