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The War of Ideas in the Middle East

Israel Divestment Campaign
Campaign Updates

04.29.2013 IDC Update
UN PRI & PERS Inaction Motivates New Letter Campaign

Our optimistic update of January 29th 2013 (see below) turns out to have been somewhat premature. Since then, the staff of the UN PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment) scrapped the idea of a roundtable on the "Middle East" at the October 2013 PRI meeting in Capetown; and the CalPERS staff has become less responsive to the evidence that IDC has submitted that documents Elbit's and Veolia's complicity in the violation of Palestinian human rights and international law.

The IDC is undaunted, however, and besides continuing to put pressure on both PERS and STRS, we are exploring the possibility of launching other public pension campaigns in collaboration with union activists.

To that end, we have initiated a new "Letter to Board Members" signature campaign, calling on STRS, PERS and LACERA to initiate the process to divest from Caterpillar, which, as noted in the letter, is not only complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights, but is also guilty of major violations of North American workers rights.

The letter to the board members can be reached from the "Actions You Can Take Now/Online Letters" on our menu.

And remember to check back periodically to follow the progress of the IDC campaign.

02.04.013 IDC Update
CalPERS and CalSTRS responses to IDC

For CalPERS and CalSTRS responses to IDC, and on recent divestment actions by pension funds in the US, Australia and Norway, see Randy Diamond's article “Some take heat for stock investments in occupied areas” on the Pensions&Investments website.

01.29.2013 IDC Update
CALPERS Responds to Divestment Petition

Asks UN Body to Consider Mideast Investment Concerns

In December 2011, more than 5,000 California taxpayers, including almost 900 members of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), appealed to CalPERS to divest its holdings in corporations that enable and profit from Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Following the Israel Divestment Campaign (IDC) petition presentation, CalPERS initiated a yearlong series of discussions with IDC and began its own policy-driven “engagement process” with two of the five companies targeted by IDC:  Elbit Systems Ltd. and Veolia Environnement.

Even as this engagement process and the conversations with IDC continue to unfold, CalPERS has responded meaningfully to IDC's concerns by requesting that the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment (UN PRI) network of investors convene a session on responsible investing in the Middle East during the October 2013 Signatory General Meeting in Capetown, South Africa. This gathering will bring together many of the 1,144 investment managers, asset owners and professional service partners from around the world who have committed to the general principles embodied in the UN PRI initiative.

We are pleased that CalPERS, which was one of the original, “drafting” signatories of the UN PRI in 2005, has initiated this proposal and that the UN PRI staff has committed to include the session on the forthcoming Capetown agenda. Although this may not bring immediate investor sanctions against corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights, it places the issue before this international body. It also puts corporations like Caterpillar, Elbit and Veolia on notice that citizens of California are watching, along with others from around the world.

Indeed, the international community is not only waiting and watching, but as reflected in the UN Human Rights Council report of January 31, 2013, has called on private companies to assess “the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps — including by terminating their business interests in the settlements — to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People.” One way of doing that, of course, is to call on investors like CalPERS and Cal STRS to use their standing to pressure these corporations, which is precisely what the Israel Divestment Campaign has been doing.

Be sure to check back regularly to follow IDC developments as we plan the next stage of our campaign. You can help us expand the campaign by bringing divestment discussions to your social justice and faith–based organizations, your campuses, your children's schools, and even your next door neighbors.

‡ For information about the complicity of Elbit and Veolia in human rights violations, visit the WhoProfits website (


Here is a copy of the Jan. 25, 2013 CalPERS letter to IDC. For easier viewing, you can open the letter in new window by hovering your cursor at the letter's top right corner and then clicking on the "pop-out" arrow. When you are done with the letter, please return to this page.

12.22.2012 IDC Update
CalPERS Receives New Petitions

The Israel Divestment Campaign's coordinating committee recently submitted close to 1500 new petitions to CalPERS appealing to it to take action against our five target companies: Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Caterpillar, Elbit and Veolia. We also presented updated information on the last three companies. These materials are being reviewed and we expect to hear back from PERS in mid-January. Stay tuned.

03.30.2012 IDC Update
Land Day/Global BDS Day

One year ago, on Land Day/Global BDS Day, the Israel Divestment Campaign launched our direct petition drive calling on CalPERS to honor its own policies and commitment to socially responsible investing. Then, on December 12, we delivered those petitions to the PERS Board (see report below) with almost 5,500 signatures. At that time, members of the IDC presented our argument for PERS to begin the engagement process with five targeted companies: Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Caterpillar, Elbit and Veolia.

Since February, we have been in conversation with PERS and have submitted further documentation on the complicity of these five companies and on the kinds of actions being taken against some of them by other public agencies, including public pension funds. PERS is now seriously reviewing the materials we have submitted. Although this might be a long, slow process, on this 2012 occasion of Global BDS/Land Day, we remain hopeful that PERS will honor its principles and promises to California tax-payers and pension fund members to invest our money in a socially responsible manner.

We will keep you posted, and might be calling on you periodically to remind PERS that you expect them to initiate their engagement process with all five of these companies.

12.12.2011 IDC Update
IDC Delivered Your 5,321 Signatures to PERS

On December 12th, members of the Israel Divestment Campaign submitted our petition to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) calling on it to honor its own policy of responsible investing.

Speaking on behalf of our 5,321 petitioners, including 837 of you who are members of PERS and 545 of you who are members of the State Teachers Retirement Fund (STRS), three IDC coordinators gave compelling evidence of how investments in Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Caterpillar, Elbit and Veolia violate PERS' own policy of corporate responsibility.

Sherna Gluck speaking
Sherna Gluck speaking at CalPERS,
Emily Alma and Mikos Fabersunne looking on

After presenting the petition with its list of signers to the Board, Sherna Berger Gluck (Los Angeles) reviewed PERS' commitment to the UN Principles of Responsible Investing (UN PRI) and recapped the complicit activities of these five corporations. Emily Alma (Chico) and Mikos Fabersunne (Sacramento/Davis), who had just returned from an olive harvest delegation, gave eyewitness testimony of how the activities of these companies impact Palestinian life on the ground.

111212 George Diehr, chair
George Diehr, Investment Committee Chair

After Gluck's closing statement the Chair of the Investment Committee thanked the IDC team for its presentation, and advised that the next step will be direct conversations between the IDC and the PERS staff responsible for monitoring compliance with PERS Corporate Responsibility Policy.

111212 David Mandel, JVP
David Mandel, Sacramento JVP

Following the IDC presentation, David Mandel, Jewish Voice for Peace-Sacramento, made a brief statement in support of the IDC call to PERS, noting that JVP has called for divestment from three of the same companies.

The Israel Divestment Campaign looks forward to conversations with PERS Corporate Governance staff and hopes that PERS will begin its investigation into the five companies after the first of the New Year. Check back regularly to follow our progress.

03.30.2011 IDC Update
IDC Launched Phase II on Land Day/Global BDS Day

On Global BDS Day, March 30, 2011, the Israel Divestment Campaign joined with peace and justice groups throughout the world in renewing our commitment to a just peace in Palestine/Israel.

CalPERS Public Comment by IDC

In mid-February, members of the Israel Divestment Campaign made presentations to the Investment Committees of both of the California State Retirement Systems, CalSTRS on Feb. 10th and CalPERS on Feb. 14th, asking them to honor their own investment policies. You can listen to or read the edited transcript of the IDC presentation at CalPERS.

110210 CalSTRS Public Comment by IDC

Action has yet to be taken by either of the California State Retirement System Boards, so we have launched Phase II, a direct petition campaign demanding that they begin an engagement process to respect their own investment policies. See the IDC presentation at CalSTRS.

The IDC believes that with enough public pressure, the Boards will do the right thing - by adhering to their own policies and ultimately divesting from companies that facilitate Israel's violations of international law and human rights.

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