What I Saw in New Orleans
By: Taher Herzallah
Like many of you, I was excited to hear the news that the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a groundbreaking human rights resolution two weeks ago. The resolution, which created a process to screen contractors or companies invested in human rights, civil rights, or labor rights abuses, was celebrated as a victory by pro-Palestinian groups supporting BDS.
Despite the resolution making no mention of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign or the State of Israel, Zionist groups from the Jewish Federation to the ADL quickly moved to kill the measure. The only way to understand such fierce opposition to a human rights resolution is to deduce that they, too, believe that Israel is guilty of committing human rights violations and investments there would necessarily be threatened.
I continued to follow the backlash, and just ten days later, found myself in a New Orleans City Council meeting on Thursday with dozens of proponents from all colors and creeds demanding that local officials uphold the resolution and not buckle to Israel Lobby pressure. Many of us were forced to stand outside of the meeting room which allowed only a small number of people.
It was apparent that the city council members were forced to rescind the resolution after Jewish leaders cried anti-Semitism. I was dismayed to hear some local officials retract their previous support especially after having praised the success of boycott in ending South African Apartheid. Yet I was heartened by the powerful display of grassroots mobilization with people from all backgrounds, black, brown, indigenous, Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim, standing together in support of human rights.
I decided to Facebook Live some interviews with activists who came out in support of the resolution and highlight the disparity between the progessive voices in our community versus the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigots who destroyed a social justice measure that would have protected everyone.
Despite the results of yesterday's meeting, the battle is not over. This initiative brought BDS into the national conversation and local organizers are determined to keep fighting. The movement for justice in Palestine continues grow in New Orleans, and AMP will keep you posted on any developments. Keep an eye out for future actions as part of our efforts to support solidarity groups on the ground.