A resolution calling for the boycott of Israeli firms will not be put to a vote at the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund’s (TIAA-CREF) upcoming shareholders meeting.
The move comes after the pension fund giant received approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to "take no action" on a submission by pro-Palestinian Authority Arab activists. This followed the company's warning by an Israeli civil rights group that passage of the resolution would violate NY and Federal law.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, stressed that the development was "a major defeat for the extremist Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement taking aim at Israel."
Darshan-Leitner underlined that her group discussed "concerns with the SEC and pointed out that the resolution was in violation of anti-boycott laws. We noted that TIAA-CREF's corporate charter limited its functions to 'aiding and strengthening nonprofit colleges, universities,' and we could not understand how a biased resolution like this could properly be presented to their membership."
Last month, the Tel Aviv-based Shurat HaDin informed TIAA-CREF's leadership that any attempt to implement the boycott resolution would be illegal.
The letter noted 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" was unlawful and even places secondary actors, aiding the policy, under liability.
The letter pointed out 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."
Darshan-Leitner stressed that if measures were to be actually taken against Israel, Shurat HaDin would immediately file suit on behalf of Israeli businesses against TIAA-CREF and to ensure enforcement of state and Federal anti-discrimination laws.
"We seek to make sure Israeli companies are not harmed as a result of a newly-adopted policy of discrimination. The BDS movement was looking for a big public forum to spew their hatred. The SEC ruling has now put an end to all that. It is an important victory and we are grateful that the SEC gave TIAA-CREF authorization to ignore extremism," Darshan-Leitner added.
TIAA-CREF, a Fortune 100 financial services group, is the leading retirement provider for employees in the academic and medical fields. It currently serves over 3.7 million people. The group is headquartered in New York City, and has major offices in Denver, Charlotte and Dallas.
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.
In November, Shurat HaDin, representing 24 Americans living in Israel, filed a civil action against the State Department, claiming the latter was funding Arab terrorism in the Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
The suit, filed in the district court for Washington, D.C., claims that the State Department has failed to observe congressional safeguards, transparency, and reporting requirements in its funding of the Palestinian Authority.
In December, Shurat HaDin represented two families of American citizens in their successful $338 million lawsuit against the government of Syria.
The decision found that the government of Syria was responsible for providing material support and resources to the Kurdish Workers Party ("PKK"), a terrorist organization designated by the U.S. State Department.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)