Under pressure from rights activists and investors, the US Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) divested from an Israeli company involved in settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian land.
"TIAA-CREF no longer owns shares in Africa-Israel Investments Ltd," the fund said in statement cited by the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot on Sunday, September 13.
"While a small number of shares of Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. were held in the CREF Stock Account, since June 30, 2009 they are no longer held in the Account following their removal from an emerging markets index that the Account tracks."
The New York-based Adalah Coalition for Justice in Middle East has sent a letter to TIAA-CREF, signed by 60 of its shareholders, urging the giant US pension fund to divest from the Israeli company.
It accused Africa Israel of violating human rights and international laws by supporting settlements activities on occupied Palestinian lands.
The Africa-Israel Investments Ltd is owned by Israeli billionaire and diamond magnate Lev Leviev, know by his support for settlement expansions.
Through it subsidiary, Danya Cebus, Africa-Israel subcontracted the building of a Jewish settlement on the land of the Palestinian village of Bil’in.
It is also building housing units in other settlements, cutting the holy city of Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) from the rest of the occupied West Bank.
Leviev, who has served in the Israeli army, is a major contributor to the Land Redemption Fund, a Jewish group accused of intimidation and strong-arms tactics to secure Palestinian lands for settlement construction.
Adalah regretted that the multi-billion dollar financial services and retirement firm still invests in other Israeli companies participating in settlement activities.
Adalah regretted that the multi-billion dollar financial services and retirement firm still invests in other Israeli companies participating in settlement activities. "Despite the recent divestment from Africa-Israel, the new June 30th TIAA-CREF report indicates that the fund continues to invest clients’ money in a number of companies supporting Israeli settlement activity including Israel Discount Bank, Cellcom Israel, Bezeq Israeli Telecommunications Corp, Bank Leumi, and Motorola, among others."
TIAA-CREF, a Fortune 500 company, holds $400 billion in assets and has 3.6 million investors across 15,000 academic institutions in the US.
There are more than 164 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, eating up more than 40 percent of the occupied territory.
The international community considers all Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land illegal.
Adalah-NY is championing a campaign against Africa-Israel Investments for human-rights violations.
In May, eleven organizations called on the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, reportedly the fifth-largest shareholder, to divest from Africa-Israel.
The investment giant BlackRock, Africa-Israel’s seventh largest investor, has already had divested from the company.
Swedish activists have informed Adalah-NY that the Swedish pension fund AP1, reportedly the tenth largest investor in Africa-Israel, had also divested from the company.