Barnard and Columbia Faculty to Hold Press Conference Calling for Divestment

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Barnard College and Columbia University Faculty to Hold Press Conference Next Tuesday to Call on TIAA-CREF to Divest from Israel’s Occupation

When: Tuesday, April 23, 2013, at 12:00 PM EST
Where: Jed D. Satow Room, Lerner Hall, Columbia University
between 114th and 115th st.

NEW YORK: As divestment campaigns sweep campuses on the West Coast, Barnard College and Columbia University faculty add their voices to the national campaign calling on pension fund giant TIAA-CREF to divest from corporations profiting from Israel’s nearly 46-year-old illegal occupation of Palestine. While the Obama administration continues to provide support for Israeli human rights abuses and violation of international law, faculty at his Alma Mater of Columbia will gather to present a petition to the CEO of TIAA-CREF, Roger Ferguson, calling on the well-known retirement fund to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations in Palestine. Professor Katherine Franke, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School, will speak on behalf of over 100 Barnard and Columbia professors who have signed the petition. “As faculty and officers of Columbia University we look to TIAA-CREF to invest our retirement account funds wisely and ethically,” said Professor Katherine Franke.  “We cannot tolerate the idea that one day we may live on retirement income that finds its source in the profitability of the illegal occupation.”

TIAA-CREF’s pension fund serves many of Barnard and Columbia’s faculty and staff. Though it prides itself on socially responsible investment, TIAA-CREF is invested in five companies that are actively engaged in supporting human rights abuses: Elbit Systems, a company manufacturing drones used by Israel for extrajudicial executions; Motorola, whose Israeli subsidiary develops motion-detection “virtual fences” for Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements; Hewlett-Packard (HP), which maintains the biometric ID system used by Israel to control and restrict Palestinians’ freedom of movement; Veolia, a company involved in the construction of the light rail system connecting annexed East Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank; and Northrop Grumman, which supplies the Israeli Army with parts for the Apache AH64D Longbow Helicopter, the radar for F-16 combat jets, and Longbow Hellfire II missiles, all weapons that were used in 2008’s Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli assault on Gaza that killed approximately 1400 Palestinians in the space of three weeks, most of them civilians.

Following in Columbia’s rich tradition of activism against racial segregation and Apartheid in South Africa, a growing number of its students, faculty and staff oppose the corporate policies of these companies, which serve to maintain violent military occupation, institutionalized segregation and other grave human rights violations. Because of this, a substantial number of the Columbia community is joining the national campaign to insist that TIAA-CREF uphold its promise for socially responsible investment.

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