Showing posts with label divest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label divest. Show all posts

Friday, June 21, 2013

More United Methodists Divest From Companies Supporting Israel’s Occupation

Press release from our member group United Methodist Kairos Response. 

Four United Methodist annual or regional conferences (New England, Minnesota, Pacific Northwest and Upper New York) have voted this month to divest or have their funds divested from companies involved with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. They joined five other conferences (West Ohio, New York, Northern Illinois, California Nevada and California Pacific) which had already taken similar action, bringing the total to nine regional bodies representing thousands of churches.  

The companies targeted in the recent resolutions included Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, Hewlett Packard and, in one case, General Electric. All play significant roles in the occupation. 

In addition, at least five other conferencesi have asked the denomination’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to divest its holdings in companies that profit from the occupation.  Two more conferences, Susquehanna and Eastern Pennsylvania, established official task forces this month to examine the issue. 

As United Methodists learn about Israel’s land confiscation, home demolitions, and the segregated systems of transportation, water, and laws that discriminate against Christians and Muslims, there is a strong sense that the church must act.  Palestinian Christians have called on churches around the world to help end the occupation of their land.ii 

According to John Wagner of United Methodist Kairos Response, “Our denomination has a long history of upholding human rights around the world. The question now is whether we will bring the same resolve to the situation in the Holy Land, where our fellow Christians have asked for our help.”

The divestment movement has gained momentum as illegal Israeli settlements expand on Palestinian land and Israeli attacks on Christians and Muslims increase.  In 2012, Friends Fiduciary Committee, which handles investments for the Quaker denomination, divested from Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Veolia Environnement because of their involvement in the occupation. This spring, the Mennonite Church and the American Friends Service Committee declared twenty nine companies profiting from the occupation ineligible for investment.

Divestment is a nonviolent form of economic protest long used to encourage companies to end unjust practices.  The church has engaged for yearsiii in dialog with Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions about their role in Israel’s occupation. Those calling for divestment say it will strengthen the church in future negotiations by providing a consequence for ignoring the church’s concerns.  

In 2012, Caterpillar stock was downgraded by MSCI, a prestigious ratings agency, and then dropped from the socially responsible portfolios of the giant US pension fund, TIAA CREF, which divested $72 million of Caterpillar stock.  At that time the company’s role in the occupation was given as a reason.iv  Large European pension funds have also divested from companies involved with the occupation.  According to Susanne Hoder of the New England Conference, “Divestment is a good move financially and an essential move morally for the church.”


About UMKR: United Methodist Kairos Response is a global grassroots network of laity and clergy within the United Methodist Church working to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.  Responding to an urgent call from Palestinian Christians, UMKR advocates principled investment decisions and consumer choices that will have an impact on the occupation.  Through research, education and advocacy, UMKR supports non-violent means of securing a just peace for all the peoples of Israel and Palestine. For more information, see www.kairosresponse.org. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Divestment Debate Highlights Shift in Mainstream Opinion

Phyllis Bennis is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee. She will be on the opening panel of our National Organizers' Conference in St. Louis Friday, September 21 at 7:00pm discussing the Arab uprisings and how changes in the region affect our organizing to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Register today

The mainstream U.S. press, paying unusual attention to U.S. corporate complicity in Israel's occupation, wrote quite extensively about last week's Presbyterian campaign for corporate social responsibility. Virtually all the headlines focused on the two million-strong Presbyterian Church (USA) decision not to divest from multi-national corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation and settlement policies. 


"In Close Vote, Presbyterian Church Rejects Divesting in Firms That Aid Israeli Occupation,"
said the New York Times. The Associated Press reported, "US Presbyterians Reject Israel Divestment." According to the Christian Science Monitor, "Presbyterians Reject Call to Divest over Israel's West Bank Occupation." 

It took Ha'aretz, the leading Israeli daily, to get it right: "
Presbyterian Church in U.S. votes to boycott Israeli settlement goods," their headline read. 

The voting at the Pittsburgh meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) -- PC (USA) -- was the latest step in an eight-year campaign to bring the Church's investment policies into line with its commitment to social justice. It had tried for those eight years to persuade the multinational corporations to stop enabling Israeli violations of international law -- an effort that Church leaders overwhelmingly agreed had failed. Presbyterian corporate responsibility activists, led by their Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee, had moved from studying, to attempting to engage with corporate leadership, to shareholder actions, all aimed at pressing for accountability in those corporations in which the Church had invested millions of dollars. 


The Assembly approved a call to boycott all Israeli settlement-made goods (stronger than the original proposal), and to urge all other countries to boycott such goods. The Church had earlier called for suspending U.S. military aid to Israel. The proposal calling for divestment from specific corporations profiting from occupation and militarism, was ultimately taken off the table when a razor-thin majority (333-331 with two abstentions) approved a substitute motion calling for a vote on investment in Palestinian enterprises instead. 


Continue Reading on The Huffington Post

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Investment without Divestment Entrenches Occupation

When the Presbyterian Church USA passed a resolution earlier this month encouraging "positive investment" in the Palestinian economy instead of divesting from Caterpillar, HP, and Motorola Solutions for profiting from Israel's military occupation, it highlighted a continued major flaw in thinking about how to end Israel's military occupation. 

The idea that economic development alone can help bring about peace may have gained traction a few years ago when the Palestinian Authority and its supporters were boasting of the various state development projects taking place in the West Bank. But as Palestinian-American business development consultant Sam Bahour points out in his piece "Palestine's Investments Require Divestment," today various international organizations including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund admit that Israeli control over all aspects of Palestinian life severely restricts economic development. "Over the years, not only has Israel prohibited the emergence of a new Palestinian economy -- it structurally and systematically has made certain that even the buds of such a productive economy would never see the light of day," he writes. 

The idea of an economic peace, which Bibi Netanyahu insisted back in 2008 would help make a political solution more accessible, seems even more ludicrous today. Settlements continue to expand and an Israeli-government appointed commission recently declared that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is actually not occupation. About 85 percent of the apartheid wall, which Israel started constructing ten years ago, will be within the West Bank when it is completed, annexing 530 sq km of Palestinian land- the area of Chicago- and trapping 350,000 Palestinians between it and the Green Line. And the blockade on Gaza continues, keeping 1.4 million Palestinians entrapped in an open-air prison.

The Presbyterian Church and others can continue investing in Palestine, but without pressure on Israel to end the occupation, no amount of investment will actually bring peace and justice. "After all, we don't want a more beautiful prison to live in," Sam writes. "We want the prison walls dividing Palestinians from Palestinians to come down, and that won't happen unless economic pressure is placed on Israel to end the occupation."

Read Palestine's Investments Require Divestment on The Huffington Post


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Those Defending Israel’s Actions are Fighting a Losing Battle

Anna Baltzer is National Organizer with the US Campaign. 

There is a moment, just before a pendulum changes direction, when it is perfectly still. It is precisely that moment that marks the end of an old way and the beginning of a new one. That is what happened for divestment at the 2012 Presbyterian Church USA (PC(USA)) General Assembly in Pittsburgh. 


At the General Assembly, a coalition of groups
rallied to support the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) in its efforts to pass a recommendation from the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard due to the companies’ profiting from the Israeli occupation. The IPMN also sought to pass an overture to boycott settlement products Ahava Dead Sea Mineral Skincare and Hadiklaim Israel Date Growers in addition to other pro-justice overtures

The week began with
a historic victory in the Middle East and Peacemaking Issues Committee considering divestment and boycott. The committee voted overwhelmingly—by a more than three to one margin—to recommend both measures to the General Assembly.  The deliberations lasted more than ten hours and included a sincere and often times difficult discussion about what it meant to them to stand with the oppressed, to withstand accusatory bullying, and to vote according to their conscience. 

When it came to the boycott overture, the committee decided that boycotting Ahava and Hadiklaim simply was not enough to address the abhorrent nature of occupation. Instead,
it amended the resolution to boycott “all Israeli products coming from the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” and calling on “all nations to prohibit the import of products made by enterprises in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.” The amended boycott overture passed in plenary by a huge margin, seventy-one percent. In doing so, the PC(USA) joins the United Methodist Church in endorsing a boycott of all Israeli settlement products. This is a major victory. According to Jeff Deyoe, Advocacy Chair of IPMN, as recent as two years ago, the word “boycott” could not even be uttered in the Church. 

The boycott victory was bittersweet. While the Church supported boycott, its vote on divestment proved more difficult. The vote to substitute divestment from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard with investment came out split 50-50, 333 to 331 to be exact. The divestment option failed by one vote, as the investment substitution needed a majority to pass, and thus it would have been defeated by a tie.
One woman subsequently approached the microphone to say she had accidentally voted against divestment and wanted a recount, but by then it was too late. 

To describe it as a close vote is an understatement, as indicated by a breakdown of the overall votes. The majority of the 221 advisory delegates, who advise the commissioners but do not have an official vote, voted against the substitution. They included the Young Adult Advisory Delegates, who represent the future leadership of the Church. Virtually all Church leadership and advocacy groups supported divestment including the General Assembly Mission Council, the Advocacy Committee on Racial and Ethnic Concerns, and key members of the Board of Pensions demonstrating institutional support within the Church for divestment. In other words, the voting commissioners may have been split, but the Church, overall, supports divestment. 



Continue Reading on Jadaliyya

Monday, July 9, 2012

"If you truly want to help the Palestinian people, I urge you to listen to what they are asking for."

Our National Organizer Anna Baltzer gave the following testimony to the Presbyterian Church (USA) Middle East Peacemaking Committee on Monday, July 2, 2012 regarding divestment. She was serving as a Resource Person for the Advocacy Committee on Racial & Ethnic Concerns. 

If you are interested in learning more about church divestment efforts as well as other BDS campaigns in the United States, please register for our 11th Annual National Organizers' Conference taking place September 21-23 at St. Louis University. 


Thank you, Mr. Moderator. 


I defer to the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee to answer your questions regarding the internal process of engagement with the companies leading to the recommendation to divest. Coming from my perspective as a Jewish American who has lived in Palestine, I can speak to the two other main concerns I have heard regarding Jewish-Christian relations and investment being a positive alternative to divestment. 


Friends, I am not up here as a Jew to tell that it’s okay for you to divest. Because you do not need my permission to do whatever you think is the righteous thing to do. You don’t need anybody’s permission. 


I realize that divestment is controversial. That’s okay. Slavery was controversial. The Church was divided. Desegregation was controversial. Especially in the South, people were afraid of damaging relationships if they spoke out for desegregation. But the Presbyterian Church supported an end to segregation before it was common. I urge you to honor that legacy by acting today out of love and compassion rather than fear of what others will say.


You are being told that action against the occupation will estrange you from the Jewish people. But the occupation is fundamentally contrary to our shared values of equality and justice. 

There is nothing Jewish about racial profiling with Hewlett Packard bioscanners.

There is nothing Jewish about protecting stolen land with Motorola technology.
There is nothing Jewish about demolishing Palestinian homes with Caterpillar bulldozers.
And to claim that ending cooperation with these human rights violations means ending cooperation with Judaism, or Jews, draws a very dangerous parallel. There is a sea change happening. Jews are divided on this issue. You have to follow your own conscience. 

Regarding the idea of investment as a positive alternative to divestment, let me point out first that there is nothing neutral about profiting from the destruction of Palestinian homes and schools, as you are today. To stop profiting from those things, to divest, is not negative -- it’s positive. 

Investment can also be positive, but it should be practical. No Palestinian economy can endure without access to land, water, goods, or labor. Checkpoints using HP bioscanners prevent workers from reaching work or transporting products. Settlements surrounded by Motorola cameras make it impossible for Palestinians to reach their land and resources. And anything you build can be destroyed in a flash with Caterpillar bulldozers. 


For 170 years, your church has chosen the model of mission in partnership rather than missionary work, recognizing the importance of listening to the voices and choices of those you are trying to help. Why do mission in partnership in Africa and South America, but not in the land where Jesus walked? 


Right now, the Palestinians are not asking for you to invest in their economy. They are asking you to stop investing in and profiting from their suffering. They are asking you to engage in divestment, a time-tested, nonviolent, faithful act of love. 


Giving charity can also be loving. But dismissing Palestinian voices is not loving. It’s patronizing.

If you truly want to help the Palestinian people, I urge you to listen to what they are asking for. 

Thank you. 


Thank you to the
Israel Palestine Mission Network and Jewish Voice for Peace for ideas on some of the above talking points.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Anna Baltzer on United Methodist Divestment

Anna Baltzer is National Organizer at the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and author of "Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories." To learn more about this divestment resolution being considered by the United Methodist Church in 2012, visit www.kairosresponse.org.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Take action: Support United Methodist Church divestment campaign


UMKR and FOSNA are coalition members of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR) is an international movement in the United Methodist Church responding to the "Kairos Palestine Document," an urgent plea from Christians in the Holy Land for decisive action supporting a just peace in Israel/Palestine. 

UMKR is working to put actions behind the denomination's words and seeks to align the church's investments with its resolutions opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. To that end, members of UMKR have written a resolution that would direct UMC boards and agencies to divest from corporations that sustain and profit from the occupation. FOSNAhas already endorsed this resolution as a group and now we are asking YOU to please endorse as an individual!

This legislation will go to the UMC's next General Conference, being held in Tampa, Florida, April 25-May 5, 2012.

Please take action TODAY:
  1. CLICK HERE to endorse the United Methodist Kairos Response resolution as an individual.
  2. CLICK HERE to sign a petition if you participate in services provided by the UMC General Board of Pension & Health Benefits.
  3. Email info@kairosresponse.org if you are interested in volunteering to help pass this resolution.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Anti-BDS campaigner out of step with pro-BDS consensus of her Catholic order

As Mondoweiss' Alex Kane reports, in upcoming assemblies of the national United Methodist and Presbyterian church bodies, leading the fight against resolutions of divestment from companies profiting from Israel's occupation and settlements will be Sister Ruth Lautt, the national director of Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East (CFWME), and a member of the Dominican sisters order of nuns (Roman Catholic).

Kane's investigation of donation tax records to CFWME show that the organization's funders are also linked to illegal West Bank settlements. The settlement-funders who contribute to CFWME stand in stark contrast to the Dominican order's position on Israel/Palestine. The order's "call to justice" which Lautt's New York-based branch signed onto, calls for prayer and support for the Palestinian United Nations bid for statehood. It also expresses firm support for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. The website Dominican Life USA provides access to US Campaign resources.


Wildman
Kane gathered some insight from David Wildman, who serves on the US Campaign's Steering Committee and as Executive Secretary for Human Rights and Racial Justice with the United Methodist Church's Board of Global Ministries:
“It gears itself, I think, towards otherwise liberal congregations” ... Wildman, a critic of CFWME, also described the organization as an “attack group” that seeks to “block other efforts at achieving a just peace.”

Christian group dedicated to derailing divestment bankrolled by settler-funding philanthropy

by Alex Kane on January 5, 2012

When United Methodists converge on Tampa, Florida this Spring, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) holds its general assembly in early July, the question of divestment from companies that profit off of the Israeli occupation will once again attract significant attention. Delegates at these church wide meetings will be confronted by an array of attacks on any resolution that promotes divestment as one route to pressure Israel and its control over the occupied Palestinian territories. And a familiar face to the delegates will be leading the fight against these resolutions: Sister Ruth Lautt, the national director of Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East (CFWME).

Lautt is a member of the Dominican sisters order of nuns (Roman Catholic) and a former lawyer. Her organization, which she runs on her own (though there is a board), says it “advocate[s]” for “fairness” in American church dealings related to Israel/Palestine. In practice, this has meant leading delegations to Israel, promoting “positive investment” in the region instead of divestment, and working “behind-the-scenes” at religious conventions, “helping opponents of divestment draft motions [and] applying persuasion at the subcommittee and committee levels,” as the New York Times has reported.

But an analysis of donations to the organization reveals a much more complicated picture that raises questions about CFWME’s professed mission and their role in church politics on Israel. My investigation of donation tax records to CFWME show that the organization's budget has more than doubled since its founding through the support of funders linked to illegal West Bank settlements and promoting Islamophobia in the U.S.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Israel Bonds Lawsuit to Continue Despite Governor's Refusal to Divest

US Campaign coalition member group Minnesota Break the Bonds (MN BBC) today distributed the media release below about its lawsuit to get the state to divest from Israel Bonds.


First, here's a TV news clip from November 29, when WCCO Channel 4 News in Minneapolis interviewed activists with MN BBC on the day their lawsuit was announced. The original article can be viewed here.


Israel Bonds Lawsuit to Continue Despite Governor's Refusal to Divest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 16, 2011

Email: mn@breakthebonds.org
Website: http://mn.breakthebonds.org/

[St. Paul] Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC), a statewide campaign aimed at stopping Minnesota investment in Israel’s human rights and international law violations, has officially filed its lawsuit against the Minnesota State Board of Investment. This filing comes after Governor Dayton rejected the Campaign’s demand that the SBI divest from in Israel Bonds.

The complaint was formally filed yesterday in the Ramsey County District Court in St. Paul, and today was assigned to Judge Margaret M. Marrinan, with case number 62-CV-11-10079.

On November 29, 2011, MN BBC, along with 26 other co-plaintiffs, including Palestinian residents of the besieged village of Bil’in in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Jewish-Israeli members of the Israeli human rights advocacy group Boycott From Within, served a lawsuit against the SBI demanding that it cancel its Israel Bonds investments. The suit was not formally filed in court at that time in order to permit the SBI an opportunity to resolve MN BBC’s divestment demand without the necessity of court action.

The lawsuit claims that the Board’s investments in Israel Bonds are unlawful according to Minnesota and international law because they help fund Israel’s universally condemned illegal settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Following Governor Dayton’s rejection of the divestment demand, the Executive Committee of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), headquartered in New York, advised all four members of the SBI Board, including Governor Dayton, that the Board was aiding and abetting Israel’s violation of international law, which also violates Minnesota law. The NLG correspondence to each of the four Board members, which was delivered to them on December 13, 2011, is posted at the MN BBC website at http://mn.breakthebonds.org/?p=1597.

In deciding to proceed with the lawsuit, the plaintiffs also considered the murder by Israeli soldiers last Friday of Mustafa Tamimi, a Palestinian resident of Nebi Saleh, one of a growing number of West Bank villages besieged by Israeli settlers. Tamimi was shot point-blank in the face with a high velocity tear gas grenade. Israel buys a portion of its military equipment with the aid of Israel Bonds. MN Break the Bonds Campaign believes that Minnesota should not be investing our state's money in such atrocities.

To read the complete version of the lawsuit, go to:
http://mn.breakthebonds.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/MNBBCvSBI.pdf.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Take Action on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People




Above: Activists in Sacramento show solidarity with the Palestinian Freedom Riders.




Above: Click to watch Peter Miller, US Campaign Steering Committee Co-chair, address the U.N. General Assembly this morning (skip to 1 hour and 17 minutes after start).

By Anna Baltzer, National Organizer

In 1976, in commemoration of what is now 63 years of Palestinian dispossession and exile, the United Nations declared November 29 to be the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This year, Peter Miller, president of Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights and co-chair of the US Campaign's Steering Committee, addressed the U.N. General Assembly. Peter's speech, which took place this morning at the U.N, can be viewed and read here (the speech begins at one hour and 17 minutes into the recording).

Today the Palestinian people's resilience and struggle for freedom continue. Bedouin families of Al-Arakib in the Negev Desert have rebuilt their homes more than 20 times to maintain their presence there. Villagers of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank continue to nonviolently protest settler and army violence and land confiscation, remaining steadfast in the face of the army's intimidation tactics and extreme brutality. Children in Gaza whose schools have been bombed attend makeshift classrooms, persisting to get an education. Survivors of the Nakba, the catastrophe of Palestinian dispossession in the 1947-48 war, continue to preserve and pass down their testimonies and the keys to their homes, refusing to forget or to give up their internationally recognized right to return to the homes and lands from which they were expelled.

Also today, Minnesota citizens from the exciting Minnesota Break the Bonds campaign gathered at the State Attorney General's office to serve a lawsuit on the state's Board of Investment, demanding that it divest from Israel Bonds, based on moral, ethical and legal grounds. 

MN BBC is asking for your support! Sign this letter telling members of the Minnesota State Board of Investments to stop investing in Israeli apartheid!

These are only two of the many actions by US Campaign member groups over the past two weeks. On November 15, activists in 15 cities across the United States organized actions and educational events in solidarity with the Palestinian Freedom Riders, who challenged the Jim Crow-style segregation inherent in the Israeli occupation. You can find an exciting play-by-play chronology of the Freedom Riders' actions at The Struggle, and a summary of the day's events--in the West Bank and the U.S.--here at Jewish Voice for Peace, a US Campaign member organization.




Above: Click to watch LA activists educate passengers on a Veolia bus as part of a campaign to end the city's Veolia contracts.

Here is just a small sampling of U.S. actions supporting the Palestinian Freedom Riders as part of the growing worldwide campaign to challenge Veolia, a French multinational corporation that profits from the Israeli occupation by operating buses on Israeli-only roads, among other things:

In Los Angeles, activists demonstrated and boarded buses run by Veolia to educate passengers about Israel's apartheid policies as part of a campaign targeting Veolia contracts with the city.

Boston activists launched a campaign challenging the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Company's contract with Veolia by distributing fliers to educate and mobilize Boston residents.

In Baltimore, activists demonstrated at Penn Station during rush hour, singing a freedom song and drawing connections between the Palestinian and American struggles for equality and human rights, linking Veolia's profiteering from racism and exploitation in Israel/Palestine to the City of Baltimore's unequal government contracts.

There were also more actions in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Phoenix, Sacramento, Chico, Oakland, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.! Check out the photos on Mondoweiss and Flickr, and watch Jewish Voice for Peace's round-up video here.



Above: Click to watch video by Sana Kassem.

Palestinian filmmaker Sana Kassem put together this excellent video drawing parallels between the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and the struggle of the Palestinian Freedom Riders.

Our National Advocacy Director, Josh Ruebner, published this article in Counterpunch supporting the Freedom Riders—just one of dozens of articles published recently worldwide.

Last Saturday, activists in 10 European countries staged more than 60 actions as part of a Day of Action calling on supermarkets and governments to "Take Apartheid off the Menu."

Today, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, let us celebrate Palestinian steadfastness and renew our commitment to ending U.S. complicity with Israeli occupation and apartheid as part of a growing, exciting, global movement for freedom, justice, and equality.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Media Release: Citizens' Campaign Sues Minnesota State Board of Investment for Illegal Investments in Israel Bonds


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 28, 2011


Contact: 
mn@breakthebonds.org

[Minneapolis] MN Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC), a statewide campaign aimed at stopping Minnesota investment in Israel's human rights and international law violations, along with several individuals and organizations, is serving a lawsuit on the Minnesota State Board of Investment (SBI) with a demand that it divest from sovereign Israel Bonds.

The lawsuit contends that the SBI's investment in Israel Bonds is unlawful and imprudent.  The investment violates Minnesota statutes that control the types of foreign investments the SBI is permitted to make. Foreign government bonds, including Israel Bonds, are not included in the SBI's statutory list of authorized investments. Canadian Bonds are the only exception.

The lawsuit further claims that the SBI's investment in Israel Bonds is unlawful because the SBI is knowingly aiding and abetting Israel's internationally recognized violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention by financing Israel's illegal settlement activities, which involve the prohibited transfer of Israel's civilian population into the occupied Palestinian territories. International law affirms the culpability of those who financially aid and abet this type of international law violation.

Finally, the lawsuit argues that the SBI is in breach of its fiduciary obligations by exposing Minnesota taxpayers to liability to any victims of Israel's human rights abuses and international law violations due to its material support of Israel's unlawful activities.

MN BBC is a group of Palestinians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, students, professionals, parents, community members and allies working together to educate Minnesota communities about injustices suffered by Palestinians in order to promote justice and human rights.  MN BBC believes that the people of Minnesota have the moral obligation to make sound investments that will not aid the oppression of any one race, creed or people.

The lawsuit will be served on November 29, 2011 at the Attorney General's office, 1400 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul.  Members of MN BBC will begin gathering at the base of the escalators at 9:30 am, and then proceed to the AG's office to serve the complaint at 10:00. Reporters and media are welcome to interview members of MN BBC and some of the co-plaintiffs following service of the complaint. Copies of the lawsuit will be available to the press. For more information, see the article at Mondoweiss.net, http://bit.ly/veexzS.


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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Activists to sue Minnnesota for investments that fund Israeli occupation


The following was published today on Mondoweiss.net by organizers with our coalition member group, Minnesota Break the Bonds, regarding their landmark suit against the State of Minnesota for illegally investing in Israel bonds. The US Campaign is very encouraged to see this emerging and brilliant form of grassroots divestment activism, and hopes that someday soon all 22 U.S. states currently invested in Israel bonds will have been shaken by similar campaigns.

by Sylvia Schwarz and Phil Benson on November 22, 2011

Minnesota is among twenty-two states and the District of Columbia which invest in State of Israel Bonds. Proceeds from the sale of Israel Bonds are disbursed by Israel’s Ministry of Finance to various Israeli government agencies and then used, in part, to fund illegal settlement activities in the West Bank, including the construction of the apartheid wall, the confiscation of Palestinian lands and the construction of Israeli-only bypass roads.

The State Board of Investment (SBI) is charged with managing Minnesota’s public employee pension fund investments, including the Israel Bond investments. The members of the SBI (Governor Mark Dayton, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Attorney General Lori Swanson and State Auditor Rebecca Otto) have a statutory responsibility to the taxpayers to invest prudently and lawfully, while the SBI claims that it has no obligation to take into account moral or ethical issues in making investment decisions.

Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC) was formed in response to the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel and chose as its specific target the millions of dollars in Israel Bonds that the SBI holds in its portfolio. One of the primary reasons for targeting these state investments was the opportunity it provides to educate a broad state-wide audience to remedy the extreme dearth of accurate public knowledge of the Palestine/Israel situation. To this end, members of MN BBC have been travelling the state and presenting programs and educational events, film series and discussion sessions. Our group has grown from its two founders in 2006 to several hundred active members today.

Along with its educational component, for more than a year members of MN BBC have been meeting with state senators and representatives to encourage them to sponsor a bill to divest from Israel bonds. This effort has been largely met with steely stares and forced smiles. Invariably, legislators tell us that they have no control over the investments and that we should be speaking to the SBI. This we did. At one notable SBI meeting, several MN BBC members addressed the board, and although Governor Dayton listened respectfully, he clearly had other things on his mind. The response from the SBI was that we should instead be speaking to the legislators, since they had the power to legislate bans on certain investments.

While our appeal to the legislators and to the SBI was based on moral and ethical grounds, we also informed the Board that its investments in Israel Bonds were already illegal under existing Minnesota law. The Minnesota statute that controls the SBI’s investment decisions only permits investment in a narrow category of government bonds, including Canadian and U.S. Government bonds. Israel Bonds are not included. Nor, for example, are the government bonds of Iran, North Korea and Sudan included. Interestingly, the Minnesota legislature passed divestment legislation targeting privately held companies doing business in Iran and Sudan. These Iran and Sudan divestment bills include no provisions requiring divestment from the government bonds of either of those two countries, since any such investments are already prohibited, just as investment in Israel Bonds. Yet, the only foreign country (outside of Canada) in which Minnesota has invested in government bonds is Israel. Minnesota law is being broken for Israel alone.

In addition to the Minnesota statutory violation, Minnesota has an obligation to comply with all international conventions and treaties of which the U.S. is a signatory. This includes the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits transferring the civilian population of the occupier into occupied territory. Israel, in contravention of this article, has been transferring Israeli civilians into the West Bank since 1967. The UN, the International Court of Justice and the United States Government all concur that this transfer is illegal. Knowingly providing financial material support for Israel’s illegal settlement activities and infrastructure equally violates the law.

The SBI has a duty to protect the taxpayers and the state pension plan from lawsuits. By financially aiding and abetting Israel’s violation of Article 49 and other international laws, the SBI could potentially be sued by victims of these violations. These lawsuits could come under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), an 18th century law allowing foreigners to bring lawsuits in U.S. courts against those who aid and abet international law violations committed against them. Minnesota’s investment in Israel Bonds exposes the SBI and its agents, officers and employees to these lawsuits. Minnesota’s taxpayers would be stuck with the bill for defending against any such lawsuits and paying for any adverse judgments.

Because the SBI has refused to divest from its Israel Bond investments, before the end of November, MN BBC will serve a lawsuit on the Minnesota SBI seeking an order from the court directing the SBI to immediately divest from Israel Bonds and to refrain from purchasing more on the grounds that 1) the SBI’s investments in foreign government bonds (with the exception of Canadian bonds) are illegal according to Minnesota statutes; 2) investments in Israel Bonds aid and abet Israel’s continuing violations of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention contrary to international, U.S. and Minnesota law; and 3) by investing in illegal settlement activity, the SBI exposes Minnesota taxpayers and the state pension plan to potential lawsuits.

We believe strongly that the law is on our side. The lawsuit will also help to educate Minnesotans and Americans about the ongoing international law violations occurring in Israel and Palestine which our government leaders and politicians have supported with impunity. This is a small part of the work involved in solidarity with Palestinians and the call for BDS. The struggle for human rights continues.

P.S. We have recently been informed that the Minnesota State Board of Investment has invested in sovereign German bonds. Although this is in violation of state statutes, it is no longer correct that Israel is the only country for which Minnesota has violated its own laws.
Phil Benson is an active member of Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign and Friends of Sabeel North America. As an activist Presbyterian, Phil's Christian values have been the force behind his work for justice in Palestine. Sylvia Schwarz is an engineer in St. Paul, a member of Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

CU-Divest! delivers 2000+ signature to CU Regents!


US Campaign member group CU-Divest! presented a petition with over two thousand signatures asking the university to divest.  Read more about the group's efforts here, or visit the group's website: CU-Divest!

by Michael Rabb

A week ago on September 12th, CU-Divest! at the Regents’ meeting at UC Denver, delivered our petition asking the University of Colorado to divest from Israeli Apartheid.  I count this action as one of our major successes.  Thanks to Beth Daud and her determined group of campus activists and the folks who drove down from Boulder, we had “good” showing with signs and flyers and this time I think we had the Regents’ attention.  We handed out our flyer requesting the Regents to support our campaign and sign our petition.  The flyer highlights a campaign that was successful in the 1980s in compelling CU to divest from South African apartheid. 

In public comment segment of the meeting we made our appeal to the Regents to divest from Israeli apartheid. In addition, we delivered our petition with over 2000 signatures, making the argument that CU should not remain complicit in Israel’s oppression by profiting from the illegal an immoral occupation and apartheid.

After we spoke, the opposition, from the ADL and CU’s Hillel student made a few comments:  mostly about how complicated the Israel-Palestine conflict is, and that human rights and social justice are not the purview of CU, and it’s none of CU’s business what Israel does to the Palestinian people.

Then a marvelous thing happened: Regent Jim Geddes turned to the Treasurer of the University of Colorado, Donald Eldhart, and asked the Treasurer to explain the process for divestment and to provide some history of other divestment actions.  This was significant because for the first time in the six months that CU-Divest! has been communicating with and petitioning the University, the Regents have indicated an interest in our campaign.

A short discussion with the Treasurer and other Regents including Regent Michael Carrigan ensued regarding divestment process and history, specifically when CU divested from Sudan’s genocide in 2006.  So I count this as a success and important milestone in our effort to engage the University on the issue of Palestinian rights and our campaign to ask the University to divest from Israeli apartheid.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Omar Barghouti on the Moral Imperative to Boycott Israel

Omar Barghouti is a featured presenter at this year's 10th Annual National Organizers' Conference of the US Campaign, in Washington, DC, from September 16 to 19.

Omar Barghouti spoke at Socialism 2011 in Chicago on July 3, 2011, to explain why boycotting Israel is the right approach and a moral imperative for people who support justice and universal rights. Omar Barghouti is one of the founders of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), and author of BDS, The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.

SEE ORIGINAL POST...

An Interview with Omar Barghouti - July 9, 2011


Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political and cultural analyst whose opinion columns have appeared in several publications. He is also a human rights activist involved in civil struggle to end oppression and conflict in Palestine. Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, PACBI. He is a featured presenter at this year's 10th Annual National Organizers' Conference of the US Campaign, in Washington, DC, from September 16 to 19.



Video also available in HD and 16:9
For more info, please visit PACBI.

SEE ON YOUTUBE...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Archbishop Tutu in editorial: "TIAA-CREF should hear us"

The "We Divest" campaign on financial services giant TIAA-CREF is a US Campaign-sponsored initiative. The following newspaper editorial appeared in the Charlotte Observer on Sunday, July 17, 2011.


Please write your letter to the editor of the Charlotte Observer today to express your support for his opinion piece. Letters should address a single idea and not exceed 150 words. E-mail your letter to opinion@charlotteobserver.com. Include your name, address and phone number.

From Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009:

As shareholders with the retirement giant TIAA-CREF head to Charlotte this week for their national meeting, there is one issue they will find conspicuously absent from the agenda: divestment from the Israeli Occupation. Despite pleas from shareholders, including medical professionals, students and academics from universities across the United States, the pension fund refused to allow a vote on a resolution that would have compelled TIAA-CREF to consider divestment from companies such as Caterpillar or Elbit. These are companies that profit substantially from the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
In an effort, presumably, to avoid the topic altogether, TIAA-CREF even went so far as to move its annual meeting to Charlotte from its usual location in New York City. But even in Charlotte, they will not be able to escape from "occupation." Throughout the United States and the world, people will continue to speak truth to power about the apartheid perpetrated in the Holy Land.
I, for one, never tire of speaking out against these injustices, because they remind me only too well of what we in South Africa experienced under the racist system of apartheid. I have witnessed firsthand the racially segregated roads and housing in the Occupied Palestinian territories. I have seen the humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children at the checkpoints and roadblocks. I have met Palestinians who were evicted and replaced by Jewish Israeli settlers; Palestinians whose homes were destroyed even as new, Jewish-only homes were illegally built on confiscated Palestinian land.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Monday, June 27, 2011

BDS Earlham Rallies Alumni to Support Students Working for Ethical Investment

BDS Earlham is a Coalition Member of the US Campaign


Students, Friends and families of Earlham College, past and present, are being called upon to promote ethical investment by divesting from companies like Motorola, Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard, which are complicit in Israel's human rights violations. BDS Earlham has launched a new initiative called "Earlham Alumni Against Apartheid" to get everyone associated with Earlham College involved.


Below is the a letter from BDS Earlham to all Earlham Alumni, calling on them to join the BDS movement



Dear Earlhamites,




On behalf of Earlham Alumni Against Apartheid, I’m writing today to ask you to participate in a campaign to pressure Earlham College to live up to our values of peace, justice, and ethical investment.   A new student group called BDS Earlham is currently asking our college to divest from three companies that are profiting off of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.  BDS Earlham is asking Earlham Alumni, parents, and friends of the college to show our support for their campaign by signing their petition. I’d like to invite you to take just one moment to show your support by signing their petition and becoming involved in this important campaign.
BDS Earlham is calling on Earlham to divest from Motorola, Caterpillar, and Hewlett-Packard.  These companies violate the spirit of Earlham’s ethical investment guidelines through their complicity in Israeli human rights violations:
  • Motorola manufactures the Israeli military with encrypted mobile phone technology and manufactures “virtual fences” and surveillance systems for Israeli settlements.   These Jewish-only settlements are a potent symbol of Israeli apartheid and are illegal under several international laws, including the 4th Geneva Convention.  Motorola also has close ties with Aeronautics Defense Systems (ADS), which makes drone aircraft.  Last April Human Rights Watch reported finding debris from Motorola bomb components in the rubble of civilian buildings in the Gaza Strip.
  • Caterpillar manufactures weaponized bulldozers that the Israeli army uses to demolish Palestinian homes.   Since Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, it has demolished more than 12,000 Palestinian homes, leaving over 70,000 people traumatized and without shelter.
  • Hewlett-Packard manufactures the Basel System, a body scanning technology used at Israeli checkpoints at the Gaza borders and inside the West Bank.   Israel’s system of checkpoints prevent Palestinians from moving freely, stopping farmers from accessing their land, students from going to school, and sick people from getting medical attention.

Read the rest of the letter and sign the petition here

Saturday, June 25, 2011

AFSC Joins Jewish Voice for Peace on Divestment Campaign

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) are two of our coalition members, along with six of AFSC's U.S. regional chapters. Spearheaded by JVP, the "We Divest" Campaign targeting TIAA-CREF is a US Campaign-sponsored initiative. AFSC has distributed the following press release.

In its meeting on June 12, 2011, the Board of Directors of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker peace organization, united in support of joining the divestment campaign led by Jewish Voice for Peace.  The campaign calls on the financial services organization TIAA-CREF to divest from companies that:


  • Directly profit from or contribute to the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;
  • Provide products or services that contribute to the construction and maintenance of Israeli settlements and/or the Separation Wall, both of which are illegal under international law; or
  • Provide products or services that contribute to or enable violent acts that target civilians.
The campaign also calls on TIAA-CREF to establish investment criteria to exclude any such companies in the future.  The TIAA-CREF campaign does not target the government of Israel or Israeli companies for divestment; it is directed at divesting from all corporations that profit from the Israeli occupation.

The AFSC Board affirmed that the decision to join this campaign is “rooted in our Quaker beliefs that we speak with love to ‘that of God’ in every person, that we ‘utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons for any end or under any pretense whatsoever’, and that we testify to this by removing the ‘seeds of conflict’ - including economic seeds - from our own lives.”

This decision is a response to ongoing Israeli violations of human rights and international law and is a rejection of any actions that might support these violations. Consistent with AFSC’s investment screen, this campaign seeks to change Israeli government actions and to end its continued occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

AFSC’s work is shaped by its recognition of Israelis’ and Palestinians’ shared humanity and the importance of working with both peoples to end the conflict based on the principles of equality, rights and justice. As the Board said, “In joining this campaign, Friends reaffirmed our commitment to approach it with a loving spirit and openness to hearing all sides in a conflict. In communicating with Jewish Voice for Peace and others we will hold up our broader concerns for the resolution of all conflict and violation of human rights in the region.”

For more information about AFSC’s joining the Jewish Voice for Peace campaign, see our frequently asked questions.

SEE ORIGINAL...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

TIAA-CREF Censors Shareholders... We Flash-Mob!


Above: Palestinian boy calls on people worldwide to boycott Elbit and end Israeli occupation and apartheid.



Traveling through Palestine during the past few weeks, co-leading a delegation organized by Interfaith Peace-Builders, a US Campaign member group, I witnessed firsthand the destruction wrought by corporations profiting from Israeli occupation and apartheid.

I watched Caterpillar bulldozers leveling earth for illegal Jewish-only settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. I stood under Motorola-equipped watchtowers and thermal cameras at checkpoints and terminals that separate Palestinians from their schools, jobs and basic human services. I saw Elbit equipment used in patrolling the Apartheid wall. I documented Veolia buses operated on roads forbidden to non-Jews in the West Bank. On the first anniversary of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, I honored the nine civilians killed by Israel with Northrop Grumman helicopters and other U.S. taxpayer-funded weapons.

The growing "We Divest" Campaign demands that retirement fund giant TIAA-CREF divest from Caterpillar, Motorola, Elbit, Veolia and Northrop Grumman because all five are profiting from the illegal Israeli occupation.

TIAA-CREF presents itself as committed to "serving the greater good," in part by engaging with companies behaving poorly. This is why 20 investors and anti-occupation activists filed a shareholders resolution earlier this year, asking TIAA-CREF to engage with companies profiting from the occupation.

Despite a stated commitment to transparency, TIAA-CREF asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to help suppress the resolution. The SEC agreed not to sue TIAA-CREF for refusing to submit the proposal to a shareholder vote. TIAA-CREF bills itself as socially responsible, yet it is blocking its investors from choosing whether or not to retire on money acquired through an illegal, immoral occupation.



Above: BDS activists protest outside TIAA-CREF offices in Denver during Israeli Apartheid Week. Click image to enlarge, and click here to see video.


It's time to show TIAA-CREF that they cannot silence investors and violate their own proclaimed investment standards while we sit idly by! We need to keep the pressure on.

Many of you have already signed the petition asking TIAA-CREF to divest from Israeli occupation. Now it's time to take the next step. In the spirit of this spring's Flash Mob Frenzy, there will be a coordinated week of flash mobs across the country, starting June 20.

Have you been itching to stage a flash mob in your community? Here's your chance! There's a song everyone knows, catchy lyrics, and simple but groovy dance steps all ready to use!

The materials come with a how-to kit based on the US Campaign's BDS Flash Mob Step-by-Step Guide.

Click here to connect with others in your area to take part in the Flash Mob Action Week and demand that TIAA-CREF stop profiting from occupation, stop censoring investors, and start acting like a real socially responsible investment fund!

Hope to see you -- getting your socially responsible groove on -- soon!


Anna Baltzer
National Organizer





PS --
We can support grassroots BDS activism around the country only with grassroots support from people like you. Help us by making a general tax-deductible donation, or by joining our Olive Branch Club to make a recurring tax-deductible donation.