Backlash in New Orleans over a human rights resolution
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A seemingly innocuous human rights resolution adopted by New Orleans’ City Council drew harsh criticism Friday from observers who said it played into the hands of anti-Israel extremists.
Four of the seven council members issued a statement late Friday defending the resolution. But Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued a Friday night statement condemning the measure as Ill-advised.
The resolution adopted Thursday toward the end of an hourslong regular council meeting that “encourages the creation of a process” to review any city investments or contracts involving businesses whose violate human and civil rights. The council later noted in a news release summarizing its Thursday meeting that the resolution was adopted “in accordance with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement, also known as BDS.”
The resolution doesn’t have the force of law and it makes no mention of a specific corporation, country or issue. But the BDS movement is widely viewed as being aimed at Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
Landrieu said his administration had no knowledge of the resolution prior to the vote. “This resolution was ill advised, gratuitous and does not reflect the policy of the City of New Orleans,” the Democratic mayor said in a Friday night news release.
Council members, all Democrats, approved the measure 5-0. Two members were absent by the time it passed, but both — Stacy Head and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell — were listed as sponsors.
The resolution went little-noticed Thursday, when speakers backing it included representatives of the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee and a woman who identified herself a New Orleans native and a Palestinian with a home on the occupied West Bank. A video recording of the meeting shows the woman urging a boycott of Caterpillar because equipment it made has been used to bulldoze homes on the occupied West Bank since the 1967 war.
On Friday, the backlash was strong, from Republican Party representatives and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, which said the resolution had been added to the agenda without adequate public notice.
“While the Jewish Federation fully supports the values of human rights expressed in the resolution, we are deeply concerned about its unintended consequences relating to Israel and in bolstering the divisive BDS movement,” read a Friday news release from the federation. “The BDS movement, which has inherently anti-Semitic components, is designed to challenge Israel’s economic viability and very right to exist.”
The Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee condemned the resolution, as did Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy.
“This measure is rooted in anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel,” Cassidy said in a news release.
Cantrell joined Council Members Jason Williams, Jared Brossett and James Gray in an emailed defense of the resolution. “The Council did not single out any particular companies, countries, nations, issues, conflicts or existing contractors,” Cantrell said. “The Resolution simply seeks to keep City contracts and investments in line with our commitment to upholding universal human rights.”