New Orleans walks back 'BDS' resolution after Jewish groups cry foul

City Council members said they were stunned to hear that the non-binding resolution was portrayed as anti-Israel considering it did not mention the country in its text.

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January 28, 2018 20:44
2 minute read.
BDS

BDS. (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)

NEW YORK – The city of New Orleans said it has rescinded a resolution it passed last month, after the Anti-Defamation League and local Jewish groups said it unfairly targeted Israel.

On January 11, the New Orleans City Council in a 5-0 decision passed the resolution to avoid “contracting with or investing in corporations whose practices consistently violate human rights.” Although the resolution does not mention Palestinians or Israel in its text, it was drafted by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee, which cheered its passage.

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But on Thursday, the city decided to walk back the move and struck down the resolution in another unanimous 7-0 city council vote, after it came under heavy criticism from the ADL and the local Jewish federation.

“By withdrawing the resolution, it allows the opportunity for a clean slate to begin to engage in meaningful, transparent and inclusive dialogue on how this community advances issues of civil rights and human rights, and how we collectively build a better New Orleans reflective of our commitment to these values,” read a joint statement by the ADL and New Orleans Jewish Federation.

City Council members said they were stunned to hear that the non-binding resolution was portrayed as anti-Israel.

But Republican US Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said that response was very unlikely, as the city’s mayor-elect and city council member, LaToya Cantrell, helped draft the resolution with the aid of pro-Palestinian groups and introduced it as part of her Welcoming Cities initiative, local television station WWL-TV reported.

“While city council members feigned innocence, claiming to be totally unaware of the resolution’s anti-Israel and antisemitic meaning, pro-BDS activists and antisemites around the nation rejoiced,” Cassidy said in fundraising email for his re-election campaign that referenced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Council President Jason Williams later told WWL-TV that he felt misled by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity campaign.

Mayor-elect Cantrell also walked back her initial support for the city council decision, saying the resolution’s “passage has shrouded the city in an undesired and damaging falsehood.”

“As mayor-elect, I am committed to leading a city that champions civil and human rights, democratic engagement and transparency,” Cantrell said. “While I will continue to examine issues of civil rights and fair contracting, I want to unequivocally reiterate that I am neither supportive of the BDS movement nor in any way hostile to the Jewish community or the State of Israel. Nor was it my intention to commit the city of New Orleans to such positions.”

Supporters of the resolution interrupted Thursday’s council meeting with singing after the vote to rescind. Tabitha Mustafa, a representative of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee, said the vote to rescind discriminated against Palestinians.

“The Palestine exception demonstrated by the city council today – that Palestinian rights are not considered human rights – illustrates exactly why boycotts, divestment and sanctions to achieve our freedom, justice and equality are necessary,” Mustafa said. “Far from singling out Israel, BDS rectifies the exceptional status enjoyed by Israel.”

JTA contributed to this report.


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