MSCI and TIAA-CREFF Divest from Caterpillar!

This is huge.

In the most significant Israel divestment milestone to date, the MSCI (Morgan Stanley Capital International) World Socially Responsible Index recently removed Caterpillar from its list.  Shortly thereafter, financial retirement fund giant TIAA-CREF divested Caterpillar from its portfolio as well!

Did I say this was huge? CAT has been a target of divestment activists for many years – and rightly so. The company has come under increasing criticism from human rights organizations for continuing to supply bulldozers to Israel, which uses them to demolish Palestinian civilian homes and destroy crops and agricultural land in the occupied territories. In the succinct words of Amnesty International: “Thousands of families have had their homes and possessions destroyed under the blades of the Israeli army’s US-made Caterpillar bulldozers.”

This is only the beginning. Last month, the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation, divested $900,000 in shares of Caterpillar. And earlier this month the undergraduate student government at Arizona State University,  unanimously passed a bill demanding that ASU divest from and blacklist all companies that continue to provide the IDF with weapons and militarized equipment.  All this in advance of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Pittsburgh later this month, in which church commissioners will vote on a motion to divest from Caterpillar and two other companies (Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard) that profit from Israel’s occupation.

To those who say that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement will not succeed, stay tuned.  This is precisely how movements get started. A few significant victories and the dominoes begin to fall more rapidly.  Individual actions such as this may have more symbolic than financial impact, but don’t discount the power of symbolic victories.  History has taught us again and again that nonviolent direct action has the power, step by step, to leverage real and lasting political change.

Israel continues its brutal occupation and settlement policy with impunity and no government (notably our own) seems able or willing to hold it to account.

Just watch as people power moves in to fill the vacuum.

11 thoughts on “MSCI and TIAA-CREFF Divest from Caterpillar!

  1. Dave

    Somebody sold a stock.

    That means somebody bought a stock. No other alternative.

    I suspect eventually some of the people who bought the CAT stock will eventually sell that stock .

    Or not, and just collect the dividends (currently yields 2.3%). Whatever.

    According to the average daily volume of CAT shares is over 7 million (roughly equal to $595 million @$85/share)

    The Quakers sold $900 thousand, huh. Drop, meet bucket. TIAA was more, but the problem is that you can only divest once. That’s it.

    Pittsburgh? At least Tampa has beaches. Knock yourself out.

    (Of course all these mainline Christian denominations will eventually have to ‘divest’ from everything due to thier aging memberships)

    All this vigorous activity for nothing

  2. Clif Brown

    It is huge. I intend to write the members of the Illinois Board of Investments with this information, encouraging them (again) to stop purchasing Israel bonds with Illinois funds as they have been doing for the last 6 years or so to the tune of $12 million each year – the one and only foreign country that gets Illinois funding. Since there is no limitation on how Israel uses the money and we all know that Israel subsidizes the settlements, what MCSI and TIAA/CREF have done sets a very good example. Caterpillar makes the tool for destruction – Israel buys it. Americans shouldn’t be supporting either end of the transaction.

    Should anyone like to check out this situation, the financial statement for Illinois for 2011 is at and you will find the Israel bond line item on page 32 (PDF).

    If anyone would like to join me in appealing to the investment board, you can find their official government email addresses here:

    1. Steve

      Reply to Cliff Brown’s post

      Investing in State of Israel Bonds is about the only good financial decision that the State of Illinois has made in years that I could thing of.
      Alexi Ginnoulias when running for the U.S. Senate said how Illinois increased the portfolio State of Israel bonds when he was State Treasurer of Illinois. Ginnoulias lost to Mark Kirk who is now one of Israel’s best friends in the U.S. Senate. Kirk campaigned strongly about issues relating to Israel and he was always a friend of Israel as Congressman from the 10th district of Illinois.
      The State of Illinois enjoys great relations with Israel. My guess is that it won’t be divesting its portfolio of State of Israel bonds soon.

      1. Shirin (aka umrayya)

        Yep, and that’s all that matters, isn’t it, Steve? Being ethical and moral in one’s investments (and buying habits) is of no importance at all. So what if buying Israel bonds supports an occupation and an aggressive military policy that destroys lives on a daily basis? No problem as long as it’s profitable? So what if it supports a “deomcratic” government that brazenly and sometimes brutally discriminates against a portion of its citizenry based solely on ethno-religious background as long as it brings in money?

  3. i_like_Ike52

    When France imposed its arms embargo on Israel before the Six-Day War, this gave the impetus for Israel to build up its arms industries, which is now one of the leading exporters for Israel today. If Cat should stop selling armored bulldozers to Israel, we will end up building our own, and then maybe exporting them as well. Do you really think we are stupid here?

    1. Vicky

      I don’t think stupidity is one of the charges anybody is levelling against the architects and maintainers of the military occupation, Ike. Illegality, yes. Gross immorality, yes. Callous disregard for human life, yes. Stupidity? No.

      Your argument essentially boils down to ‘If you don’t sell us the equipment we need to tear up Al-Araqib, we’ll just manufacture it ourselves!’ That doesn’t pass the ethics test.

      Divestment is also only one aspect of the struggle for justice in Palestine. Awareness of occupation policies has risen sharply in the past few years (of home demolition and administrative detention in particular). Whenever an organisation divests from an unethical company, that awareness goes up a further notch, and it spills over into other anti-occupation efforts. Of course, divestment would still be a good thing to do even if it weren’t part of this wider fabric: it’s not right to profit from other people’s suffering.

      1. Gil Franco

        Arabs in Palestine and the Arab states have been formally boycotting the Jews in Palestine since the 1930s. Despite this fact, the Jewish community and later Israel have continued to grow in numbers and economic and military power. It doesn’t seem like a very promising strategy for the Palestinian Arabs to gain what they see as justice. In any event, would you care if BDS actually undermines the incentive for them to reach a negotiated end to the conflict and only perpetuates the occupation policies that you decry?

      2. Shirin (aka umrayya)

        Gil, you appear to be unaware that BDS encompasses far more than “Arabs in Palestine and the Arab states”. But, let’s say it didn’t. What alternative strategy would you recommend that the “Palestinian Arabs” employ to seek justice?

  4. Sylvia

    Just another of those week-end hoaxes we have come to expect. When the Cat company officers are not available for a reaction.

  5. Jason

    Why is anyone against the IDF? The IDF’s goal in public, private and policy is to protect Israel from destruction, which her enemies openly want. Without the IDF, every last Israeli (and Jew if they could) would be murdered.

    Very few in the IDF abuse their power. But like any civilized democracy such instances are penalized. and in those cases I presume we’d be on the same side condemning it (along with the vast vast majority of Israelis).

    Israel is a beautiful, peace-wanting country. They target terrorists, and feel bad for collateral damage, as opposed to her enemies who desire the collateral damage. If Israel desired the collateral damage they sure as hell could have inflicted 1,000,000 times more of it. You are on the wrong side.


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