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BDS roundup: Future professionals demand TIAA-CREF divest from Israel’s rights violations

February 27, 2013
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  • Future clients of pension fund giant TIAA-CREF call for divestment from companies profitting from Israel’s occupation;
  • Shuggie Otis cancels Tel Aviv performance while activists call on Alicia Keys and Depeche Mode do the same;
  • Queen Mary, University of London students union votes to boycott G4S and Veolia;
  • Veolia’s bid for street cleaning contract is withdrawn in Liverpool;
  • London solidarity protest with Hebron includes BDS de-shelving action;
  • Palestinian organizations call for boycott of Israeli diamonds;
  • Palestinian BDS Na
  • Future clients of pension fund giant TIAA-CREF call for divestment from companies profitting from Israel’s occupation;
  • Shuggie Otis cancels Tel Aviv performance while activists call on Alicia Keys and Depeche Mode do the same;
  • Queen Mary, University of London students union votes to boycott G4S and Veolia;
  • Veolia’s bid for street cleaning contract is withdrawn in Liverpool;
  • London solidarity protest with Hebron includes BDS de-shelving action;
  • Palestinian organizations call for boycott of Israeli diamonds;
  • Palestinian BDS National Committee statement on boycott of individuals; and much more.


Future TIAA-CREF shareholders are urging the pension fund to divest from corporations which profit from Israel’s occupation.


#FutureVotesNow: Future clients of pension fund giant TIAA-CREF call for divestment from companies profitting from Israel’s occupation

- US: Current university students — and “aspiring doctors, academics, social workers, human rights advocates, and non-profit administrators” — have launched a creative campaign demanding that pension fund giant TIAA-CREF drop its investments from companies that profit from Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

Holding placards explaining their professional goals, dozens of students from universities around the country are being photographed for The FutureVotesNow website on Tumblr, a popular social media and photo sharing site. The campaign also calls for students to add their voices to the campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #FutureVotesNow.

FutureVotesNow says, on the website:

We are college and university students. We are aspiring doctors, academics, social workers, human rights advocates, and non-profit administrators. We demand an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and corporate involvement with the occupation.

We know that TIAA-CREF, the preferred retirement plan at many of our universities, invests more than $2 billion in corporations that profit from egregious human rights abuses. We are appalled by TIAA-CREF’s financial complicity in acts of militarized violence, segregation, and population control.

Last month, TIAA-CREF shareholders submitted a resolution for divestment fromVeolia Environment. Veolia provides segregated services for Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, including buses forbidden to Palestinians.

TIAA-CREF, we ask you to remember that we are your future. As future professionals, we will search for retirement plans like TIAA-CREF that commit to investment “for the greater good.” We will be paying attention when your shareholders meet this summer. If you choose to continue investing in an illegal and morally unconscionable occupation, we will remember your decision.

We are your future shareholders, and the future votes now. Divest from Veolia.

Earlier this month, shareholders of TIAA-CREF gathered in front of the company’s offices in New York City “to support the filing of a shareholder resolution asking trustees to end investments in companies that contribute to or enable serious human rights violations, including companies whose products support Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands,” according to an announcement from Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel.

Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), joined the gathering of approximately 50 persons.

Adalah-NY added in a press release following the gathering:

CREF shareholders, including a professor of peace and conflict studies, addressed the crowd, emphasizing that it is crucial that the retirement company let shareholders have a conversation about the human rights abuses their investments are supporting. Also present was Omar Barghouti, one of the founders and leaders of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee. Barghouti’s evening talk with Judith Butler at Brooklyn College [on 7 February] has been the object of much recent controversy among local city officials and in the national media.

Barghouti thanked the protesters for their work, noting that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is growing rapidly. As the protesters chanted, “T-CREF, pay attention, no apartheid in our pension,” a delegation of CREF shareholders tried to enter the building to file their individual resolutions. The seven shareholders, four of whom joined the delegation spontaneously, were stopped from entering the building by security, who took their resolutions and promised they would be filed.

The CREF shareholder resolution, however, will be the largest Israel/Palestine divestment referendum to date in the United States, when it will come to a vote this summer.

Shuggie Otis cancels Tel Aviv performance

- Worldwide: Singer-songwriter Shuggie Otis has announced that his performance in Tel Aviv, scheduled for May, has been canceled. Although Otis has not issued a statement offering his reason for canceling, boycott activists are welcoming his decision.

Boycott campaign group Refrain Playing Israel stated on 26 February:

Deep respect and gratitude go out to Shuggie Otis. Auris Media reported that Shuggie Otis has cancelled his gig in Israel planned for May 1, 2013. Boycott activists had contacted the legendary musician best known for “Strawberry Letter 23.” Otis has not made a statement as of yet regarding his decision.

The global movement for a cultural boycott of Israel applauds his choice not to violate the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel’s policies of colonialism, occupation and apartheid towards the Palestinian people.

Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23”:

Activists appeal to singer Alicia Keys: “Don’t be fallin’ for apartheid”

- Worldwide: Activists are calling on US singer-songwriter Alicia Keys to cancel her scheduled performance in Tel Aviv in July and respect the Palestinian-led boycott call. Along with appeals by Artists Against Apartheid and the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israela Facebook page has been set up to encourage Keys to cancel her gig.

The Facebook page, titled “Alicia Keys: Don’t Be Fallin For Apartheid, Cancel Israel,” states:

Joined with the global movement for a cultural boycott of Israel by musicians, we all ask Alicia Keys to stand on the side of justice and cancel her gig in Tel Aviv, Israel.

… Alicia Keys is scheduled to play to a segregated audience in Israel on July 4, 2013 at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv. Other bands will open for her, but have not been announced yet. We urge all non-Israeli bands to refrain from this event.

petition has also been launched urging Keys to cancel. As of press time, nearly 2,700 persons have signed the petition.

Depeche Mode urged to cancel their upcoming gig in Tel Aviv

- Worldwide: UK-based rock band Depeche Mode announced a performance in Tel Aviv in May, and boycott activists have set up a Facebook page and a petition to urge them to cancel and respect the boycott call.

Queen Mary Students vote to boycott G4S and Veolia

- London, UK: The Students’ Union at the Queen Mary, University of London approved a motion on 7 February to boycott both British-Danish security company G4S and French multinational urban systems corporation Veolia.

G4S has contracts with the Israeli military and the Israeli Prison Service. It equips prisons where Palestinian prisoners, including children, are held and tortured — and killed — and also provides equipment to checkpoints and along Israel’s wall in the West Bank.

Veolia and its various subsidiaries are involved in a number of Israeli projects supporting illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, including the Jerusalem Light Rail and the Tovlan landfill.

In a press release about the vote, students at Queen Mary said that the motion passed by a “large majority” of the hundreds of students present at the annual Members’ Meeting.

The press release added:

Sam Playle, who proposed the motion, declared “The brutal occupation can only continue because it continues to receive international support. Corporate complicity in the denial of human rights must not be tolerated on our campuses.”

… Students’ Union President Babatunde Williams, also spoke in favour of the motion, arguing “Queen Mary recognises that it needs to take a stance on ethical partnerships hence why high level discussions have taken place in regards to an ethical partners policy. However, if it wishes to send a quick message that we are different from the LSE and their “omnishambles” of a moral compass then what better way than to remove G4S and Veolia from our campuses.”

… The motion was conceived as a response to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in defence of Palestinian human rights. Aamna Mohdin, the science faculty representative who seconded the motion, said “Queen Mary made an excellent decision by supporting BDS and kicking G4S and Veolia of our campus! No one should be working with companies involved in Israeli war crimes. This is just the first step, and I hope many universities follow suit.”

Veolia’s bid for street cleaning contract is withdrawn in Liverpool

- Liverpool, UK: Boycott activists working in the UK have announced that Veolia has withdrawn its multi-million dollar bid for a street cleaning contract in Liverpool.

In a press release on the Dump Veolia boycott campaign website, activists say that Liverpool “is still a strong union city, and campaigners took the issue to Liverpool TUC[Trade Unions Congress] and to a conference organized by the Merseyside Association of TUCs, on the subject of a potential general strike against austerity.”

A leaflet urging union members to “bin Veolia” was distributed, including the names of councillors who would decide on the contract bid. The leaflet also informed members of Veolia’s practices in the Tovlan Landfill project.

The press release added:

Veolia was due to attend a bidding meeting with the City Council on 22 Feb. … The campaign received a tipoff that Veolia had withdrawn. We wrote to the Legal Officer servicing the relevant committee, asking for confirmation and clarification as the full Street Scene contract is in two Lots. Had Veolia bid for / withdrawn from both? The Legal Officer declined to answer but promised the question would be tabled for discussion at the next Neighbourhood Select Committee on 26 Feb.

… Of course we do not know why Veolia withdrew their Liverpool bid. But they must have got the message. We look forward to their decision to withdraw from complicity with Israeli violations of international law in Palestine.

London solidarity protest with Hebron includes BDS de-shelving action


Activists set up a mock wall inside an Argos shop in London.

(Palestine Place)

- London, UK: Activists in London engaged in a protest outside of the Israeli embassy following a boycott action inside major shopping centers on 23 February. The activists said that both actions were in solidarity with the Open Shuhada Street mobilizations against Israeli apartheid and settlements in the West Bank city of Hebron.

In a press release, activists with Palestine Place said that:

In solidarity with the people in Hebron and the Open Shuhada Street movement, London shops got a taste of the occupation. Activists imposed symbolic closures on shops that sell Israeli produce, made in the occupied West Bank, upholding the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

By recreating Shuhada street the activists raised awareness for Al-Khalil and urged people of conscience to boycott all Israeli products until it complies with international human rights law.

Israeli products were removed from the shelves, leaving behind a notice to inform shoppers and staff that ‘this product was removed because it was made on stolen land’. At the same time, a checkpoint was set up at the entrances of the shops, and hundreds of leaflets were given to passers by.

… Amongst the shops that were targeted was Whole Foods, a brand that boasts of its ethical sourcing, but recently started selling SodaStream products, which are made in one of the fastest growing illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Ma’ale Adumim. Activists asked Whole Foods to remove SodaStream from their shop and encouraged shoppers to express their concern about the store’s ethical standards. Tesco and Argos were also targeted for selling Israeli produce which finances the illegal occupation of Palestine.

Later in the afternoon a protest was held outside the Israeli embassy in London, calling for an end to the occupation, and system of apartheid, as well as the opening of Shuhada Street in al-Khalil [Hebron]. Protesters set up a replica of the wall that Israel has built in the West Bank in front of the embassy and raised Palestinian flags.

video of the action was posted on YouTube.

Palestinian organizations call for boycott of Israeli diamonds

- Worldwide: More than 50 organizations, including Palestinian women’s groups, trade unions and international solidarity groups, have called for a worldwide boycott of diamonds processed in Israel.

According to a press release, the groups demand that “Jewellers worldwide immediately end the trade in diamonds processed in Israel, and … women and men of conscience the world over reject diamonds from Israel which fund a military regime that murders, maims and terrorises innocent men, women and children with impunity.”

Samer Abed-Rabbo, who is named as a coordinator of the global campaign, stated in the press release:

Revenue from Israel’s diamond industry is a major source of funding for the Israeli military which stands accused of war crimes by the UN Human Rights Council, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Diamonds processed in Israel evade the human rights strictures of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme which only bans ‘conflict diamonds’ or rough diamonds used by rebel groups to finance conflicts against legitimate governments.

The press release added: International governments, the US and EU in particular, have failed to protect Palestinians from Israel’s diamond-funded military which last November killed 170 Palestinians, mainly civilians, including 33 children and in the last four weeks shot and killed six unarmed Palestinians.

Abed-Rabbo said: “Diamonds are Israel’s most important manufacturing export commodity; accounting for 30% of Israel’s manufacturing exports. Without revenue from the diamond industry Israel could not afford the financial burden of the illegal occupation, construction of Jewish colonies on Palestinian lands and the brutal subjugation of the Palestinian people.

To view the full list of endorsers to the boycott call, see the press release at this link.

Palestinian BDS National Committee statement on boycott of individuals

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) issued a statement explaining the BDS movement’s position toward the boycott of individuals.

The BNC states:

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition of Palestinian unions, mass organisations, refugee networks and NGOs that leads and and sets the guidelines for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, supports all principled action in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality that is in line with universal human rights and international law.

In its 2005 BDS Call, Palestinian civil society has called for a boycott of Israel, its complicit institutions, international corporations that sustain its occupation, colonization and apartheid, and official representatives of the state of Israel and its complicit institutions. BDS does not call for a boycott of individuals because she or he happens to be Israeli or because they express certain views. Of course, any individual is free to decide who they do and do not engage with.

The global BDS movement has consistently adopted a rights-based approach and an anti-racist platform that rejects all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

These guidelines and the fact that BDS has been initiated and is led by Palestinian civil society are major reasons behind the rapid growth and success that the BDS movement has enjoyed around the world.


February 27, 2013
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