Just weeks after passing a resolution backed by the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, BDS, movement, the New Orleans city council rescinded the resolution after it came under heavy fire from Jewish and pro-Israeli groups.
While the resolution had made no mention of Israel, Palestine or BDS, it called for investigating and blacklisting corporations and companies that do work with states or groups that violate human rights in line with BDS principles. The resolution was in fact drafted by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee branch in the city, a member organization of the BDS movement.
The resolution was celebrated by pro-Palestinian activists as a victory for BDS and its principles and thus was immediately attacked by conservative Jewish groups and pro-Israel politicians in the U.S..
“The BDS movement, which has inherently anti-Semitic components, is designed to challenge Israel's economic viability and very right to exist,” the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, JFGNO, said in a statement on Jan. 12 a day after the measure was passed.
“While city council members feigned innocence, claiming to be totally unaware of the resolution’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic meaning, pro-BDS activists and anti-Semites around the nation rejoiced,” pro-Israel Louisiana’s Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy said attacking the city council in a fundraising email for his re-election campaign according to The Intercept.
The New Orleans council caved to pressure and withdrew the resolution on Thursday according to local media. In a joint statement, JFGNO and the Anti-Defamation League, ADL, welcomed dropping the resolution, saying that BDS “does not advance the discussion towards meaningful resolution and peace between Israelis and Palestinians, or a workable two state solution.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian activists and their supporters slammed the city over backing away from the resolution calling it a cowardly act.
Tabitha Mustafa, founder of the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee told The Intercept that the city council’s walk-back “sounds like they’re saying human rights just aren’t important anymore, or they’re saying human rights are important but not if that includes Palestinians, which to me reads as anti-Arab sentiment.”
“What became clear is that there were some groups who support Israel … that were threatened by the notion of human rights accountability precisely because they are very aware that Israel has engaged in the denial of Palestinian human rights,” Yousef Munayyer, executive director for the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, also told The Intercept.
“They were opposed to human rights accountability for all groups if it meant that Israel might be held accountable for the denial of Palestinian human rights.”
For a brief moment New Orleans had become the first city in Southern U.S. to approve a resolution backed by BDS, after which council members “immediately” received attacks and threats.
"Almost immediately, my fellow council members and I received sharp criticism for the manner in which the resolution was passed, as well as the unintended, but serious consequences of its passage," Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell said in a statement according to Middle East Eye.
Although she authored and introduced the measure, Cantrell added that its "unintended impact does not reflect my commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and respect and support for civil rights, human rights and freedoms of all New Orleanians."
The BDS movement is a non-violent initiative, inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, which seeks to apply international pressure until Israel ends the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights.
The movement has constantly been labeled “anti-semitic” by Israel and its supporters because it targets Israel and its institutions. BDS activists flatly deny such accusations arguing that their resistance is non-violent and targets the state of Israel rather than the Jewish people.
“There’s nothing anti-Semitic about non-violently resisting state violence,” Max Geller, a member of the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee, told the Middle East Eye. “There’s nothing anti-Semitic about putting an end to ethnic cleansing and allowing people to stay on their own land.”