As a former schoolmarm, I have a retirement account managed by TIAA-CREF. The Cap’n recently called out from the laptop in his office in our basement to tell me that there is a divest-from-Israel campaign afoot, and perhaps I would like to write a letter?
He sent me a link to a report about a recent TIAA-CREF shareholders’ meeting in which they garnered 15,300 signatures from teachers and professors demanding that TIAA-CREF divest from companies that do business with Israel, benefiting from “repression,” “land theft,” “death,” and “The Occupation.” It’s always sad to me to see purportedly intelligent Jews making asses of themselves on camera, parading their heartfelt ignorance before the world, and enlisting as Useful Fools in the cause of Israel’s destruction. Watch and weep.
I simply cannot see that sort of thing without running to the computer (or, since I’m already here, opening up Word) and writing a letter. The letter to other shareholders about the “breakthrough” meeting in which “[n]ot a single person spoke to defend Israel’s occupation” continues, “But we all know that will change, which is why we need you now to join our call and help us grow the 15,300 to 25,000 and then 50,000.” Not THIS shareholder.
Here’s my letter to TIAA-CREF:
Dear Madam or Sir:
It has come to my attention that an organization calling itself Jewish Voice For Peace has been collecting signatures for a petition calling TIAA-CREF to divest from companies that do business with Israel.
As a TIAA-CREF shareholder, I would like to offer a different perspective.
I actually live in Israel. Furthermore, I live in the West Bank. And unlike the American Jewish Voice For Peace, I see every day the civility, courtesy, and cooperation that exist between Israelis and Arabs. We share the roads, and we share an economy. And while there are frequent demonstrations calling for an end to Israeli “occupation” of this area, they are nearly always planned and attended by non-Israeli, non-Arab activists (political tourists, if you like).
The people who spoke on behalf of Jewish Voice For Peace on the video posted online seem like intelligent people. But unfortunately, even intelligent people can sometimes have a poor understanding of history and current events. The West Bank and Gaza were left in Israel’s hands after Israel successfully fought off an unprovoked attack by Jordan and Egypt in 1967, who hoped for the second time to destroy Israel and divide its land. Israel has tried numerous times to trade these lands for peace, first to Jordan and Egypt (who refused after the Khartoum Conference) and many times to PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat and PA President Mahmoud Abbas (who refused to accept them and end the conflict once and for all). The settlements are legal according to international law, there is nothing approaching apartheid either in Israel or in the disputed territories, and Israel gave Gaza to the Arabs in 2005, painfully uprooting its own citizens, in order to give the Arabs a head start on building a state. In return, not only has Hamas refused to engage in any of the necessary tasks of state-building, it has continued its war against the Jewish State, firing thousands of rockets and mortars across the border into Israel, terrorizing the Israeli population, killing and maiming people, and causing millions of dollars of damage to property, meanwhile taking refuge behind its own civilian population for whose safety and well-being it feels no responsibility.
The individuals who call themselves Jewish Voice For Peace appear well-meaning, but in calling for boycotts and divestment in order to weaken Israel’s economy (which also serves Israeli Arabs, Beduins, and Druze), they are no friends of peace. Were they really interested in peace, they would be encouraging TIAA-CREF to help strengthen the Palestinian Arabs by supporting through investments Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s efforts to build a viable Palestinian economy as one of the necessary steps toward a lasting regional peace.
I too would like to see peace come to the Middle East. But I also recognize that activism against Israel, without an understanding of the complex relationship between Israel’s economy and the peace process, is ignorant, short-sighted, and bad for business.
I urge you at TIAA-CREF not to give in to pressure by ill-informed political activists who want to weaken Israel. We have a thriving democracy, a liberal justice system which serves the needs of all of its citizens, and a population of people of all colors from all over the world who have come together to create not only a haven and home for all Jews, but who also act as custodians for some of the world’s holiest sites, where everyone—Jewish and Gentile—is welcome. To attempt to hurt Israel will not help anyone—Jew, Arab, or American—and will not bring peace.
Thank you for your time and attention.
And on a slightly different note: Review, please, the wording regarding the overwhelming support for divestment at the meeting. Aaron Levitt writes, “Not a single person spoke to defend Israel’s occupation. Not one. … So many inspiring and courageous JVP activists stood up to say how TIAA-CREF was fueling death and destruction by literally investing in it. To implore TIAA-CREF to find a new way.” Let’s overlook the sentence fragment for now and focus on the rest, particularly the glee expressed by Levitt at the unanimity in the room and admiration for those “courageous” souls who, unassailed by conflicting opinions, stood up one after another and repeatedly hammered home the same message to the CFO and other officers of TIAA-CREF who, he writes, “listened attentively, respectfully.” If this is what academia has come to, i.e. ecstasy at conformity and trepidation at debate, then these are sad times, indeed.