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New Orleans City Council rescinds human rights resolution, igniting the movement for Palestinian rights

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After pressure from local pro-Israel organizations, the New Orleans City Council yesterday voted unanimously to rescind a human rights resolution that the body passed exactly two weeks ago.

Pushed for months by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee (NOPSC), Resolution 18-5 would have established a committee to assess all city contracts and terminate those with companies complicit in human rights abuses.

While the resolution mentions no specific country, company or person, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans (JFNOLA) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed immediate outrage that the council would support anything put forth by the NOPSC.

Jewish Federation CEO Arnie D. Fielkow addressing the New Orleans city council with pro-human rights supporters holding up signs outside the meeting. (Photo: Chana Rose Rabinovitz)

In a joint-statement issued today, the JFNOLA, ADL and Jewish Community Relations Council thanked the City Council for its withdrawal of the resolution.

Still, in an attempt to save face they maintained that the decision “in no way reflects a lack of commitment to human rights, from either Federation, ADL or the City Council.”

Anna Baltzer, Director of organizing and advocacy with the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, called the vote a “travesty of justice”, revealing the guilty parties’ “disregard not only for Palestinian life but all human life.”

“The hoods are off. We see the way Zionist organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federation are willing to kill a human rights resolution and undermine entire movements to protect Israel,” Baltzer said.

Supporters of the resolution and Palestinian human rights understand that public opinion is affected when such hypocrisy, both on the part of politicians and pro-Israel groups, is laid bare.

“I think the community is having a hard time understanding why the City Council would stand against human rights,” Tabitha Mustafa, co-founder of NOPSC, told Mondoweiss.

This has lead people to question which constituents the City Council feels accountable to, Mustafa noted, and why those constituents “would make them rescind a human rights resolution just because it also advocated for Palestinian rights.”

Although lacking the authority of an actual law, the resolution was understood as a symbolic gesture in support of human rights — a cause that Councilmember-at-large Jason Williams and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell were all too happy to champion.

In accordance with New Orleans’ commitment to be a “Welcoming City,” the final resolution — authored and introduced by Cantrell on January 11 — affirmed the city’s obligation to “protect, respect, and fulfill the full range of inherent human rights for all.”

Cantrell even met with members of NOPSC before introducing the resolution, in what seemed a genuine commitment to Palestinian human rights in an environment when most politicians shudder at the thought.

But in less than two weeks, a promising and open dialogue crumbled.

“This has just been a steady cold shoulder since the Zionist backlash began,” Max Geller, member of NOPSC told Mondoweiss. “They refused to speak with us. Jason Williams has not returned our emails, neither has the mayor-elect…[she] wouldn’t even make eye contact.”

As Mondoweiss previously reported when the resolution first passed, outgoing New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who strongly criticized the resolution, receives thousands in campaign contributions from pro-Israel groups in the city.

According to public campaign disclosures, major business partners and underwriters of the JFNOLA and other pro-Israel groups in New Orleans contribute heavily to city lawmakers. Councilmember Williams’ campaign received some $8,000, and Mayor-elect Cantrell $23,500, in contributions from the law firm Jones Waker LLP and the private Acadian Ambulance company since 2012. Both companies have headquarters in New Orleans and serve as major underwriters to the JFNOLA.

Resolution supporters inside the city council meeting. (Photo: Chana Rose Rabinovitz)

Despite today’s decision, the cause for human rights including Palestinian rights received an overwhelming response from city residents.

More than two hundred grassroots activists and community members gathered outside, after being denied entry into the meeting.

Tabitha Mustafa and Max Geller speak to supporters at New Orleans City Council meeting. (Photo: Marion Hill)

Chants of “human rights for all!” punctuated the City Council’s swift political turnaround as it voted to abandon the resolution.

During public comments, a handful of JFNOLA, ADL and Jewish Community Relations Council members argued against the resolution as an implicit endorsement of BDS, the movement for Palestinian human rights which the pro-Israel consensus considers anti-semitic.

As council rules limit public comment to fifteen minutes, only a few of the hundreds who showed up to speak in support of Palestinian human rights as human rights had a chance to address the council.

Those same rules, however, authorize Presiding Officer Williams to allow speakers more time, but he denied repeated requests from those speaking in favor of the human rights resolution.

Just two weeks ago, Williams expressed his support for the resolution by connecting it to anti-Apartheid measures taken by cities around the world.

Neither Councilmember Williams nor Mayor-elect Cantrell responded to Mondoweiss’ repeated inquiries.

Supporters of the resolution include a broad and diverse mix of workers, immigrant rights groups, prison reformists, the LGBTQ community, environmental activists, Palestinian rights groups, clergy and rabbis.

In a letter addressed to Mayor-elect Cantrell, Councilmember-at-large Williams and the rest of the City Council, a coalition of twenty-one human rights and legal organizations, local and national, urged lawmakers to “uphold the principles of universal human rights,” as they did when passing the resolution.

Signatories, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), National Human Rights Cities Alliance, and Palestine Legal, note the resolution adheres to city, national and international standards, “especially in the context of business and human rights.”

Calling on lawmakers to reject attempts by organizations that seek to limit or selectively apply universal human rights, the letter closes with the undersigned organizations proclaiming “we stand by you and the values expressed in this important resolution.”

In a statement, Rabbi Brian Walt of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, responded sharply to the vote.

“Today, the arguments I hear from opponents of the New Orleans City Council resolution are very familiar to those I heard from South Africans supporting apartheid,” Rabbi Walt said.

Empathizing with a pro-Israel community that sees the movement for Palestinian rights catalyzing, Rabbi Brant suggested the solution is “not to smear and attack human rights defenders and supporters of the grassroots boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.”

The solution, he said, is “to join with those who are working for universal human rights for all, including Palestinians.”

Jesse Rubin

Jesse Rubin is a freelance journalist from New York. Twitter: @JesseJDRubin

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22 Responses

  1. Maghlawatan on January 26, 2018, 10:52 am

    Israel is an abuser. Abusers get away with their vileness because of the silence of good people.

    • Naftush on January 29, 2018, 1:09 am

      Abuse, eh? That’s the repeated use of end-arounds, manipulations, false intersectionality, and sleight-of-mouth in getting BDS resolutions passed. One almost understands it because resolutions promoted in a straightforward manner nearly always fail. Some abusers don’t get away with their vileness, as New Orleans just proved.

      • Talkback on January 29, 2018, 10:35 am

        Naftush: “Some abusers don’t get away with their vileness, as New Orleans just proved.”

        Some abusers just did, as New Orleans just proved.

        Only in your perverse universe people who support human rights can be called abusers instead of those who violate or work against them. Like your abusing Apartheid Junta.

  2. Maghlawatan on January 26, 2018, 1:02 pm

    Israel has lost the grassroots Dems.
    Israel has lost Europe.

    Israel is a loser.

  3. pabelmont on January 26, 2018, 1:30 pm

    Abusers also get away with their abuse because they (or at least in this case) have lots of money to spend — which they do spend! — acquiring puppet-strings to politicians.

    Accordingly, not only are the people savaged by American imperialism in MENA suffering from American supported imperialism, but so too are the people of the USA, whose voices are increasingly not heard when OLIGARCHS (such as — in this case — BIG-ZION) spend money to buy political compliance.

  4. Ossinev on January 26, 2018, 2:03 pm

    Always inspiring and reassuring to hear voices like these from the Jewish community in America or Israel. The good Rabbi represents and displays the true values of the Abrahamic Religions as in “do unto others” and “love thy neighbour”(unlike the current values of the majority of Israelis which are” do onto the Palestinians what the Nazis did to us” and “loathe thy neighbour”. The fact that he grew up in South Africa and witnessed at first hand the reality of Apartheid and is disgusted by the obvious Apartheid system in Israel and is not afraid to stand up and speak the truth about the latter makes him of course a certain target for the brainwashed Zionist lobby in the US but also someone who can`t simply be dismissed as an “Israeli basher”.

  5. Boomer on January 26, 2018, 2:20 pm


    In another post on this site we learn that, “Reading JMN Jeffries’s reissued 1940 study of the Balfour Declaration, scholar Joseph Levine concludes that it is true that there are two narratives about the foundation of a Jewish state in Palestine — but only one of them, the Palestinian one, has much connection to reality.”

    It seems that in the United States, only one narrative is permitted.

  6. on January 26, 2018, 5:38 pm

    It now seems that you are an antisemite if you champion human rights in America!

    • Emory Riddle on January 27, 2018, 7:18 am

      It’s been that was for a long time.

      • on January 27, 2018, 10:53 am

        I wonder if the resolution which never mentions Palestinians or BDS would have passed and stayed in effect if it were brought forth by Tibet activists or East Timor or Western Sahara activists without any Palestinian fingerprints on the matter.

        Perhaps that’s the strategy to adopt going forward. Be as covert as the Zionists. Draft and support other movements on such resolutions but in a clandestine way.

      • Emory Riddle on January 27, 2018, 2:31 pm

        Jewish Orgs attack declaration of human rights for all.

        “The hoods are off…” Could not put it better.

  7. Keith on January 26, 2018, 5:46 pm

    “While the resolution mentions no specific country, company or person, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans (JFNOLA) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed immediate outrage that the council would support anything put forth by the NOPSC.”

    Folks, this is a demonstration of power, pure and simple. A power so pervasive that it has veto power over resolutions of the New Orleans City Council. So pervasive that when Tom Hayden began his political career, he had to be certified “kosher” before he could run for the California State Assembly.

    “Hayden sold out, as he tells it, because, in order to run as a Democratic candidate for the California State Assembly, he had get the approval of the influential Democratic congressman Howard Berman. Berman is a guy who, when he became Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was proud to tell the Forward that he took the job because of his “interest in the Jewish state” and that: “Even before I was a Democrat, I was a Zionist.”

    Hayden had to meet with Howard’s brother Michael, who, acting as “the gatekeeper protecting Los Angeles’ Westside for Israel’s political interests,” told Hayden: “I represent the Israeli Defense Forces”—a sentence that could serve as the motto of most American congress critters today. The “Berman-Waxman machine,” Hayden was told, would deign to “rent” him the Assembly seat on the “one condition: that I always be a ‘good friend of Israel.’”

    But American congressmen were not the only “gatekeepers” through whose hands Hayden had to pass before being allowed to run for Congress. Other “certifiers” included “the elites, beginning with rabbis and heads of the multiple mainstream Jewish organizations,… the American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), …[and].. Israeli ambassadors, counsels general and other officials.“

    In fact, Hayden had to, in his words, be “declared ‘kosher’ by the ultimate source, the region’s representative of the state of Israel,” Benjamin Navon, Israel’s Counsul-general in Los Angeles.

    In other words, in this article Hayden was describing, in an unusually concrete way, how the state of Israel, through its state officials and their compliant American partners, was effectively managing—exercising veto power over Democratic Party candidates, at the very least—American elections down to the level of State Assembly. In any constituency “attuned to the question of Israel, even in local and state elections,” Hayden knew he “had to be certified ‘kosher,’ not once but over and over again.” (Jim Kavanagh)

  8. RoHa on January 26, 2018, 10:33 pm

    Gee. What a surprise. Who’da thunk it. Etc.

    (But, Keith, you mustn’t suggest that any Jewish organization has any influence on any US policy. That’s anti-)

  9. Ronald Johnson on January 27, 2018, 8:45 am

    It looks like a tactical error of the Federation and the ADL. An error of being drawn into apparent opposition to human rights, when it would have been more strategic to let the resolution stand and then proactively prevent any action against Israel, if and when the Israeli abuse of human rights ever makes it to the floor in City Council. This clumsiness will precipitate lots of dinner table debate in New Orleans, to say nothing of recruitment for Jewish Voice for Peace, et al. That, plus a hardening of the dedicated defenders of Zionism. Will there be an expense-paid junket to Israel for the Mayor and the New Orleans City Council?

  10. Talkback on January 27, 2018, 12:49 pm

    Jews. Once organized to fight for human rights. Now organized to fight against it.

    What a shanda.

    • Misterioso on January 27, 2018, 3:09 pm

      @Talkback, et al

      Just released video:

      “Anti-Jew and pro-Israel: Why Antisemites Love Israel”

    • just on January 27, 2018, 5:55 pm

      How the hell do dollars and cents/filthy lucre always and forever trump justice??? Perhaps as Siegman says in Phil’s article:

      “I happened to be in Israel during a launch of a new book by an author and historian, Raphael Israeli, a professor emeritus at the Hebrew University. The event, which drew a large Likud crowd, including government ministers and Knesset members, reminded me—like nothing else ever did in my over sixty years of professional engagement with the Israel-Palestine conflict—of how woefully uninformed not only the American public but our government officials and academics are about the realities on the ground in Israel and in the Palestinian occupied territories.

      The central thesis of this new book, titled “The Arab Minority in Israel” (published only in Hebrew), is that Israeli Arabs are a fifth column “who suck from the state’s teats” and cannot be integrated into Israeli society. Expressing admiration for the Americans’ internment of its Japanese citizens during World War II, the author advocates the confinement of Israeli Arabs in concentration camps. The author sees Israel’s failure to have taken such measures as a sign of “an enfeebled Israel that has lost its will to exist.” For “although the Arabs openly identify with our enemy . . . [n]ot only are they not incarcerated in camps, we allow them to stand on our platforms.””

      That’s some willful brainwashing/hasbara/garbage, ain’t it? The US and far too many others are absolutely complicit.

      NOLA pols should be ashamed, but they aren’t. This resolution should have meant something to every single person affected by Katrina/Deepwater Horizon and in anticipation of the next ones when the US gov’t fails their folks and their planet… again. It will happen given the accelerating climate crisis run amok and Corporate America. A shanda that Israel prevails again over human rights in 2018 and in NOLA.

      (PS~ Perhaps the reference to Rabbi Brant is a mistake in the second to the last paragraph.)

  11. ritzl on January 30, 2018, 4:55 pm

    I wish someone would/could publish what the specific threats were to compel this reversal.

    I don’t think this is just a case of one idea being a better idea than a previous idea. Threats were made. It would be interesting to know what they were. HOW does the ADL work this kind of “magic?”

    • annie on January 30, 2018, 5:21 pm

      ritzl, seeing as the lobby generally operates as a nightflower it’s unlikely we’re ever going to hear the “specific threats”. but what can be brought to bear? everything from funding for politicians during the next the election to suggestions big projects the council is working having their funding rescinded, to big projects important to the city or council that are not yet funded — getting funded, scandal related material (blackmail). it’s endless. i remember when this rich guy in florida threatened to cancel his 1 million dollar donation to the florida dems if they elected a very popular politician who went to palestine w/the dream defenders as chairman of the party. plus, the rich guy also threatened all his rich friends would pull out their money too.

      politics now completely revolves around money. read this article* to see how this is done on a micro level. if you don’t have the bigwigs behind you it’s much harder to get things done — by design.

      * note the prominence of emily’s list and recall the panel she was on saying the #1 group to hit on early for funding, for all the new politicians, was aipac.

      • ritzl on January 31, 2018, 8:54 pm

        Yes. “But”….

        I think that the specific threat has more outrage value than the generic, money threat.

        Was the specific conversation along the lines of, “Your muni bond rates will go to double digits if you do not comply with our demands.” or something similar?

        We never see the specific threats.

        Everybody understands that generic money threats are par for the course, but in this case, how those threats were articulated, specifically, to the city council of NOLA, to get them to reverse this in record time, would, imo, illuminate the process of Zionist influence (and make it counterable).

        There is outrage in specific conversations, imo.

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