Anti-Israel activists from Jewish Voice for Peace at the Jan. 25 New Orleans City Council meeting
While there were many groups in the Jewish community who mobilized to battle Resolution R-18-5, opposition was by no means unanimous.
At the Jan. 25 meeting (story here), two of the four speakers for keeping the resolution were Jewish.
The first speaker for the resolution was Rabbi Michael Davis, who flew in from Chicago for the meeting. A founding member of the Rabbinic Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, Davis leads Makom Shalom in Chicago and noted he had been rabbi in Baton Rouge.
Davis said “the New Orleans City Council is fulfilling the best of our Jewish teachings in acting on its ethical and social obligations… our prayer is that other city councils will join New Orleans in using their economic power to stand for all human rights.”
He criticized “some Jews” who spoke against the resolution, including local rabbis and the Federation. Davis said “pro-BDS is a loaded term, an incendiary term. It is code for anti-Semitic. They are saying that to support human rights, including in Israel/Palestine, is to hate Jews.”
He concluded, “listen not to the raging tumult of the powerful. Listen not to the fury of the rich. Listen not to the thrattling drumbeats of anti-Semitism. Listen instead to that still small voice inside you, that voice of your conscience, that voice of truth.”
Chloe Sigal from the New Orleans Congress of Day Laborers said the resolution was the work of many local groups in response to Donald Trump’s election.
As a Jew, Sigal said she was “appalled” that “Jewish concepts like tikkun olam have been mentioned in today’s meeting to rescind this resolution. Hundreds of companies profited from the Holocaust. Hundreds of companies are profiting today from human rights abuses, from Palestine to the U.S./Mexico border.”
Members of Avodah Jewish Service Corps in New Orleans issued a statement commending the council for its original vote. “Every day we work in New Orleans to combat deep social and economic inequality; we work in healthcare, housing rights, education, and prison reform. We recognize that this work is contingent on the dismantling of inequality everywhere. The Human Rights Investment Screen helps make this ideal we share as a corps a reality.”
The New York office of Avodah noted that the organization did not take a position on international issues such as this resolution, and the statement was made by individual members who did not intend for it to represent the organization’s views.
JVP also urged the council to reaffirm its original vote. “The resolution was written by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee, whose commitment to liberation for all people is reflected in the broad language of the resolution. We joined over 20 organizations across New Orleans in celebrating this resolution as a win for all freedom struggles,” their statement read.
Both statements took issue with the characterization of the resolution as anti-Semitic. The Avodah members’ statement, which did not reference the Middle East at all, said “This claim is a travesty and a deep betrayal of the historical Jewish commitment to social justice. We believe that divestment from institutions and corporations partaking in human rights abuse is legitimate, and that the passage of the Human Rights Investment Screen is an important tool to hold our city accountable to values of equity and human rights for all.”
The JVP statement expressed “outrage” that the Federation and ADL were “falsely claiming to speak for all Jews” and “smeared this historic resolution.” It also stated that “attempts to tie criticism of Israel’s human rights abuses to antisemitism are meant to deflect attention away from those abuses.”
In the controversy, Jewish Voice for Peace saw an anti-Palestinian bias, claiming that the ADL and Federation did not like that the resolution “was hailed by Palestinian rights activists” and asked the Council, “Had the ADL and Federation been the ones to present the exact same resolution, would you still be reconsidering it?”
The ADL considers JVP to be the “largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States,” which “works to demonstrate Jewish opposition to the State of Israel and to steer public support away from the Jewish State.”
At its national conference last year, JVP hosted Rasmea Odeh, convicted of involvement in a terror attack in Jerusalem in 1969, and last summer launched “Deadly Exchange,” a campaign charging that Israeli counter-terrorism training of U.S. police forces lead to increased police brutality against minorities in the U.S.
Additional statements of support for NOPSC came from First Grace Community Alliance, Amnesty International, the People’s Assembly of New Orleans, Take Em Down NOLA, the New Orleans International Human Rights Festival, European Dissent-New Orleans, Nola to Angola, and Congres: The Congress of Day Laborers.