While the world of modern finance can sometimes seem mind-bogglingly complex, the notion of divestment (as used by the BDS “movement” as their own middle name) is remarkably simple to understand.
For “divestment” (as the BDSers use the term) is specifically a political act consisting of the decision by an institution (such as a school, church or financial firm) to sell off assets for the sole purpose of making a political statement (usually in protest of the company or country associated with the assets being sold).
Such political divestment is not only distinct from other activities that also involve the selling of assets (such as selling stocks because you feel they will soon decrease in value), it is often in opposition to motivations behind these other sorts of selling activities (especially if political divestment involves selling assets that might otherwise benefit an institution financially in order to make a political statement).
As a political decision, divestment must be a public act. For divesting secretly (i.e., not explaining to anyone WHY you are selling off specific assets) drains political divestment of all political meaning. And just as critically, the people who must ensure the world knows why they are divesting for political reason are the people who are actually doing the divesting.
This seems so obvious it feels strange to have to explain it. But in nearly every case of a BDS boasted “victory,” (such as Hampshire or TIAA-CREF), you’ve got a situation where someone other than the organization allegedly doing this divesting (Students for Justice in Palestine – or SJP – in the case of Hampshire, Jewish Voice for Peace – or JVP – in the case of CREF), has claimed the right to speak in the name of and assign political motivation to a third party.
To show you how such claims must be considered bogus, consider if I was to claim that TIAA-CREF continuing to hold millions of dollars in stocks from companies on various BDS blacklists as representing the retirement giant’s faith and devotion to the Zionist enterprise and contempt for the BDS “movement.” In such a situation, most BDSers would legitimately cry foul and explain that CREF has bought those assets for purely financial reasons.
Yet when organizations like Hampshire or CREF sell off just a small portion of these same assets (while retaining others), in swoop these same BDSers claiming that such decisions were not only political, but were the direct result of their own BDS-related activities and campaigns.
Even when the organizations allegedly doing all this divesting strenuously deny that they made any political decisions, the boycotters continue to fire off their victory press releases and create more and more convoluted explanations as to why an organization like CREF (which has made statement after statementregarding their rejection of JVP positions and requests) are actually in the BDS camp.
In the past, I’ve attributed this behavior to a post hoc fallacy in which the boycotters claim (and maybe even believe) that because their own political activity preceded the decision by an institution to sell off assets on the BDS blacklist, that their campaigns caused these sell offs. While such an explanation seems ridiculously simple-minded and self-serving, it at least gives the BDSers some wiggle room to claim logical incompetence, rather than the desire to deceive, as the motivation behind their many fraudulent statements (especially in cases where the sell-off of assets represented pure business decisions or automatic decisions made by computers – as the result of indexing mechanisms, for example).
But in the case of the most recent BDS hoax related to TIAA-CREF, the spearhead organization behind the CREF divestment campaign (the aforementioned Jewish Voice for Peace) is not just claiming that because CREF sold some Caterpillar shares after JVP’s divestment campaign started that CREF was thus responding to their campaign.
Rather, they are assigning specific, human decision-making to the TIAA-CREF organization which they claim in their press release not only sold the shares specifically for political reasons, but did so in defiance of a named US Congressman. And while post hoc fallacy can explain an argument that because A preceded B that A caused B, assigning make-believe motivation to human decision makers who clearly did not make the decisions being described can only be seen as a deliberate act of deception.
And so the claim by JVP and others that TIAA-CREF has divested from Israel is exposed as a lie for the simple reason that TIAA-CREF has NOT divested from Israel (presuming divestment means what it means when the BDSers themselves use the term). Now JVP et al can always prove me wrong by holding a press conference with the decision makers at CREF to confirm their version of the truth. But absent that, we can only conclude that the BDSers have returned to old habits of hoaxing.
Lacking the ability to get TIAA-CREF itself to confirm their claims that TIAA-CREF is now in the BDS camp, the BDSers have been reduced to spinning wild tales about an organization that, as far as I know, has never come up in any BDS discussions to date: the financial indexing firm MSCI.
As far as I can tell, the boycotters are trying to say that we should ignore the fact that TIAA-CREF has refused to divest and continues to deny that they have divested, and to instead assign a CREF divestment victory to them because of the decisions of this third party.
And who is MSCI and what did they actually decide? More on that tomorrow.