NEW YORK, June 1, 2013 (WAFA) – Pressure from an Israeli law office calling itself Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, publicly boasted on Thursday of its behind-the-scenes success in persuading the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to grant the pension fund giant TIAA-CREF permission to withhold a divestment shareholder resolution from shareholder voting, a press statement said on Friday.
The statement by “We Divest,” a US-based coalition of human rights groups, said the proposed resolution would have asked TIAA-CREF to divest from companies engaging in egregious human rights violations, including those significantly supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
TIAA-CREF had previously disclosed that the Israel Law Center had threatened to sue TIAA-CREF if the SEC were to decline to grant a “no action” letter and shareholders had approved the resolution, its aid.
The Israel Law Center’s rationale was that the divestment resolution called for an unlawful “boycott.”
“Neither the US nor New York State “anti-boycott” laws cited by the Israel Law Center have been interpreted or enforced to bar divestment from equities in companies supporting human rights violations or for other socially motivated reasons. Nor do these laws bar human rights boycotts,” said the statement.
“The protected status of socially and rights-based boycotts and divestment actions is a fundamental right of political activism under the American constitution. Israel has no constitutionally protected free speech rights, and in fact has outlawed the advocacy of boycotts called to end the Israeli occupation,” it added.
Barbara Harvey, Legal Counsel for the We Divest Campaign said: “The Israel Law Center’s threat to sue TIAA-CREF should it obey a decision by a federal regulatory agency and honor a shareholder vote is an act of ‘lawfare.’ While the SEC’s issuance of a ‘no-action’ letter provided TIAA-CREF an end-run around shareholder democracy, Shurat HaDin’s threat was an act of intimidation designed to dissuade the use of democratic processes to resolve issues.”
Rabbi Alissa Wise, National Coordinator of the We Divest Campaign said: “Nothing in the SEC ruling forbids a vote. TIAA-CREF’S refusal to submit the human rights resolution to a democratic vote is shamefully disrespectful of shareholders’ rights.”
We Divest is a national, coalition-led initiative by Adalah-NY, the American Friends Service Committee, Grassroots International, Jewish Voice for Peace, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and the US Palestinian Community Network.