01.19.18

After Cassidy’s Urging, New Orleans City Council to Reconsider Anti-Israel BDS Resolution

WASHINGTON—Last week, the New Orleans City Council passed a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) resolution drafted by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee to discriminate against Israel. U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) condemned the measure, saying, “This measure is rooted in anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel. This measure stands in solidarity with a Palestinian government that routinely sponsors and encourages terrorism.”

Cassidy also said he “hope[d] the council recognizes their error and reverses this misguided decision.”

Now, according to a report, “City Council President Jason Williams and other council members say they will move to reconsider it at their next council meeting.”

Key excerpts of the report are below.

N.O. Council members say they didn't intend anti-Israel message

By David Hammer

January 19, 2018

WWLTV

Members of the New Orleans City Council say they want a do-over after learning they inadvertently stumbled into an international controversy last week.

The council voted 5-0 last Thursday to plan a review of the city’s contracts and investments to ensure that none of them support companies or entities that have violated human, civil or labor rights around the world.

But after belatedly realizing the resolution was part of an international movement to boycott Israel, City Council President Jason Williams and other council members say they will move to reconsider it at their next council meeting.

On its surface, the resolution looked innocuous and made no reference to any specific human rights violations. But the City Council’s public relations firm, the Spears Group, put out a summary of the council meeting Thursday that clearly stated the resolution was “in accordance with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, also known as BDS."

That was news to the City Council president, Jason Williams, even though he was the one who added the resolution to the council’s agenda.

“I'm sad to say I didn't realize or know anything about the BDS movement until a friend, Harold Asher, educated me on it Friday morning and I began to do my research,” said Williams, who said Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell had only notified him about the resolution on Jan. 10, the day before the council meeting.

BDS is a non-violent movement dedicated to economically punishing Israel and companies that do business with it as a protest of the Jewish State’s 50-year military occupation of the West Bank. Israel gained the West Bank and other territories while defending itself from a simultaneous attack by six Arab countries in 1967’s Six Day War.

Other council members joined Williams in saying they had no idea that the resolution was based on condemnation of Israel.

“I had no clue we were stepping into an international political controversy,” Susan Guidry said in an interview with WWL-TV.

Even Cantrell, who drafted the resolution as a part of her Welcoming Cities initiative, said she was baffled by its connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I didn’t know it would be this controversial,” Cantrell told WWL.

When WWL-TV asked her if she knew her resolution had been crafted by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee, she equivocated.

“Um… I know that there were students -- I believe they were students -- that were at the council meeting, I believe, because I saw them when I was leaving,” she said.

The passage of the resolution was immediately trumpeted by pro-Palestinian groups as a watershed moment: they claimed it was the first official support for BDS from a Southern American city.

The story was picked up by national and international news agencies including The Associated Press, The Intercept, the Arab Daily News, the Middle East Eye and even Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Haaretz.

That prompted outcry from local Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and the Anti-Defamation League, and from Louisiana politicians, including U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who called the council's action "crazy," and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, D-New Orleans, who said the resolution was “ill-advised.”

Adding to the intrigue, the resolution was not on the agenda and had to be added by vote six hours into the meeting, but members of the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee turned out in force to speak in favor of the resolution.

Tabitha Mustafa of the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee came to the microphone and explained exactly what the resolution meant to her group.

“This decision, like the one the council made to divest from South Africa in the 1980s, is historic,” Mustafa said.

Speakers specifically took aim at Caterpillar, urging New Orleans to end all contracts with the firm for making a bulldozer that Israel’s military has used to raze thousands of Palestinians’ homes.

Even after hearing those comments, however, Williams and Guidry said they did not connect the resolution with any pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel movement. …

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