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A press release from Jewish Voice for Peace:

For Immediate Release

Caterpillar Removed from TIAA-CREF’s Social Choice Funds

Victory for Pro-divestment Advocates

June 21, 2012- Pension fund giant TIAA-CREF has removed Caterpillar, Inc. from its Social Choice Funds portfolio. As of May 1, 2012, financial data posted on TIAA-CREF’s website valued Social Choice Funds shares in Caterpillar at $72,943,861. Today it is zero.

“We applaud this decision,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, Director of Campaigns at Jewish Voice for Peace and National Coordinator of the We Divest Campaign (www.wedivest.org…). “It’s long past time that TIAA-CREF began living up to its motto of ‘Financial Services for the Greater Good’ when it comes to the people of Israel and Palestine.”

Since 2010, We Divest has been urging TIAA-CREF to drop Caterpillar and other companies profiting from and facilitating Israel’s 45-year-old military occupation and colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.

“By selling weaponized bulldozers to Israel, Caterpillar is complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights,” said Rabbi Wise. “We’re glad to see that the socially responsible investment community appears to be recognizing this and is starting to take appropriate action.”

Caterpillar has come under increasing criticism from human rights organizations in recent years for continuing to supply bulldozers to Israel, which uses them to demolish Palestinian civilian homes and destroy crops and agricultural land in the occupied territories, and to build illegal, Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land.

In the coming weeks, many will be watching the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly taking place in Pittsburgh, where church commissioners will vote on a motion to divest from Caterpillar and two other companies, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard, that remain in TIAA-CREF’s Social Choice Funds.

Last month, Friends Fiduciary, a Quaker institution, divested $900,000 worth of shares in Caterpillar stating: “We are uncomfortable defending our position on this stock.”

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.”

Background

  • 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. As always, there will be opportunities for online activism. Stay tuned for more!

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Father Roy writes:

Peers,

Please see: AJC Calls on Presbyterian Church (USA) To Rein in Israel/Palestine Mission Net.  Also see: Wiesenthal Center Denounces Latest U.S. Presbyterians’ Call for Israel Boycott.  Google for more.   Now please read FOSNA’s response in the e-mail pasted below.  Thanks to Claudia,  a Roman Catholic, for forwarding it.

The Presbyterians are planning for their next National Assembly, and they need our support.  A few months later the United Methodists will need our support at their National Conference.  A few months later there will be Episcopalians at General Convention needing our support.

Peers, notice the tone in FOSNA’s response.  There’s not a shred of hypocrisy or animosity in it.  No unnecessary adjectives.  No dramatic effects.  Just pure and simple honesty.

Peace,

Roy

Friends of Sabeel–North America
Voice of the Palestinian Christians

Presbyterian Mission Network Condemns Smear Campaign

 

February 8, 2012

 

NEW YORK – This week has brought broad-side attacks on the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from the organized Jewish community in the U.S. In order to understand the latest vitriol coming from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) towards the IPMN, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one has to imagine the feeling of sheer desperation that results when a fantasy world comes crashing down. The world where Israeli government policy cannot be criticized is a thing of the past. There is vigorous debate within the Jewish community around Israel’s military occupation, and groups like the JCPA and others are losing control of the narrative.

 

For the record, the Israel Palestine Mission Network is not an anti-Semitic organization. It does oppose Israeli government policy that sustains illegal occupation and violates Palestinian human rights every day. The IPMN is also a proponent of open dialogue and debate about the issues that prevent a just peace. The truth is that the JCPA, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and other “pro-Israel” organizations do not desire open and free discussion about these issues in America, and when they don’t want to talk about the facts on the ground, they resort to slanderous smear campaigns.

 

The recent attack by the JCPA on IPMN, as well as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mirrors exactly the criticism leveled at these same faith groups at roughly the same time of year back in 2010. What is the correlation? This is the run-up to the national summer gathering of the Presbyterian General Assembly that deliberates on church policy every two years. In 2010 the bogeyman was the Middle East Study Committee Report that came before that body for approval. For all the critical hype from the JCPA, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others at that time, and all the credit these organizations shamelessly took for supposedly changing the document to their liking, the reality is that the report was never substantially changed. All the original recommendations were approved, but JCPA leadership somehow called that a win. That final report is on record and can be compared to what had been originally proposed. The comparison shows no substantive difference between what was recommended and what was ultimately approved. But in today’s climate, if you say you won loud enough, you actually start to believe it yourself.

 

This year the JCPA concern comes in trying to stem the unstoppable tide of a growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Presbyterians and Methodists are leading the way in the faith community, along with many other Christian, Jewish and secular grassroots organizations across the United States, to stop profiting from the Israeli Occupation. The BDS movement is saying the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is wearing no clothes; you can’t say you want a just peace and at the same time build settlements on Palestinian land at break-neck pace. With Archbishop Desmond Tutu publicly stating that the present state of affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is akin to what he vividly remembers as South African Apartheid, the pro-Israeli groups are desperately losing ground. Part of their tactics, as outlined by the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute, is to delegitimize any opposition to Israeli government policy by accusing those who disagree with it of engaging in anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic behavior. It is a campaign known as “delegitimizing the delegitimizers” and it has millions of dollars behind it.

 

For too long pro-Israel groups in the United States have promoted a two-state solution even while Israeli policy insures that such a thing cannot possibly exist (all one needs to do is travel there to witness the facts on the ground). They have perpetuated the lie that those city-sized, Jewish-only settlements being built nonstop deep into Palestinian territory are not really illegal colonies; and have disingenuously insisted that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine has not been on the Zionist agenda since the days of Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, long before 1948.

 

Answering every false charge leveled against IPMN by these groups accomplishes nothing more than plunging a peace-dedicated volunteer mission network, whose projects are funded by small pledges by its members, into a mud pit where paid “pro-Israel” lobbyists desperately fight to take back control of a debate they can no longer win through their bullying behavior. The JCPA, AJC and others should spend their time and energy on the issues that are barriers to peace, not on name-calling and attacks in an attempt to change the subject.

About IPMN: According to our General Assembly mandate, in joyful obedience to the call of Christ, and in solidarity with churches and our other partners in the Middle East, the IPMN covenants to engage, consolidate, nourish, and channel the energy in the Presbyterian Church (USA) toward the goal of a just peace in Israel/Palestine by facilitating education, promoting partnerships, and coordinating advocacy.

 

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Friends of Sabeel–North America
(503) 653-6625; fosna.org…

http://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/email.jsp?m=1011324031170

 

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