Jewish activists launch campaign supporting divestment from Israel
By Samer Hijazi | Saturday, 07.23.2011, 11:48 AM

DEARBORN — Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) held a protest on Tuesday evening in Dearborn outside of the Veolia Environmental Services plant on Schaefer Rd against TIAA-CREF, for investing in companies that profit from Israeli occupation in the West Bank.
Jewish Voice for Peace protesting in Dearborn outside of the Veolia plant on Schaefer Road against TIAA-CREF as part of a nationwide effort. PHOTO: Samer Hijazi/TAAN 
TIAA-CREF is a financial service organization that manages pension funds for teachers and other non-profit employees. According to JVP, they invest in quite a few companies affiliated with Israel, including Veolia, a solid waste management company that profits from the construction and expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements by operating a landfill in the West Bank. To date, over $19.2 million in funds have directly gone to Israel. 
The protestors in Dearborn also participated in a short video, in which each individual expressed their concern about TIAA-CREF’s investments while standing outside of the Veolia plant. Amongst the statements said in the video were;
“TIAA-CREF profits from companies that are robbing the Palestinian people of their ancestral homes, land, water, freedom, and happiness,” and “No person should be compelled to retire on the profits from human rights abuses.”
After participating in the video, Anne Garcia, who came down from Ann Arbor to be a part of the protest made her intentions even clearer. 
“I’m a TIAA-CREF investor myself,” said Garcia, “We want to highlight the seriousness of the occupation and our earnest desire that TIA-CREF would divest from the occupation,” she added.
Over 20 protests were held across the country, led by JVP, at coinciding times to demonstrate the strong support against the companies’ ties with Israel. The biggest protest of them all, held in Charlotte N.C, was right outside TIAA-CREF’s annual shareholders meeting.
Inside the meeting, the protestor’s strong presence eventually became the main topic of the meeting, overshadowing the agenda, which included electing the company’s trustees. Each nominee was eventually asked what their opinions were on the issue, delaying the election for over an hour. Ultimately it was decided that the nominees’ opinions held no bearing because they do not make the day to day operating decisions. Further demands on the topic were rejected and the meeting moved forward. 
The company then released only the following statement on Tuesday evening;
 "Our investment committee makes decisions that are guided by our corporate governance policies. We are always listening and determining how best to serve clients according to our guidelines."
Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP’s executive director, said TIAA-CREF was mainly targeted only because of its motto, “Finance for the greater good,” and because many of those whose unions invest with the company are “sympathetic to our cause.”
“It markets itself as one that believes in ethical investments … that they care about these issues,” Rebecca Vikomerson stated.
Despite the minimal responses made by the company, JVP does not plan on putting a halt to this campaign anytime soon.
“We plan on continuing with these protests until we get the proper response,” said Maria Catalfio, one of the protestors in Dearborn. “Investments in companies that do business with Israel and caused the oppression of the Palestinian people isn’t acceptable behavior. We will be here until our message is clear,” she added.  

By Samer Hijazi

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