About 50 current and retired professors with retirement funds managed by TIAA-CREF have signed a letter calling on the pension giant to divest itself of holdings in Africa-Israel Investments Ltd., an international group that has built in some of the controversial Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The letter is part of a larger campaign by a New York-based group, Adalah-NY, against Africa-Israel Investments for what Adalah described as human-rights violations made possible by the investment group's activities, said Alexis Stern, a member of Adalah-NY.
But this afternoon a TIAA-CREF spokesman said the pension company "no longer owns shares in Africa-Israel Investments Ltd." The spokesman, Chad Peterson, said that, "earlier this year, the CREF Stock Account had an extremely small investment" in Africa-Israel, but the holding has since been sold.
Later this afternoon, TIAA-CREF posted a statement on its Web site reiterating Mr. Peterson's assertions and noting that the "small number of shares" of Africa-Israel have not been part of the CREF account since June 30, when they were dropped from an emerging-markets index that the account tracks.
Joel Beinin, a professor of modern Middle East history at Stanford University, said that TIAA-CREF had a history of choosing socially responsible investments, and that other retirement and pension funds in Europe had recently divested from Africa-Israel.
"It's not a clean company in general," said Mr. Beinin, referring to Africa-Israel Investments.
Ms. Stern said Adalah-NY had not yet received a formal response from TIAA-CREF, formally the Teachers Insurance Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund. In all, 86 holders of TIAA-CREF accounts signed the letter.