The New Orleans City Council passed a resolution backed by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) advocates, pledging to examine investments and contracts with companies whose practices may violate human rights.
The resolution, which was supported by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee, recommends removing corporations that violate the city’s social and ethical values from the New Orleans’ list of corporate securities and contractual partners.
New Orleans became the first city in the US south to adopt a pro-BDS resolution.
Although the resolution makes no mention of Israel or any specific country, Max Geller, a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee, said the measure was led by Palestinian rights activists.
Geller said that the resolution provides a platform for activists to call out companies that profit from the occupation and abuse Palestinians.
“It is the first step, and it is one that was brought about after a full year of direct action by Palestinians living in New Orleans,” he told MEE in a phone interview. “We’re very happy about this.”
Geller cited US machinery manufacturer Caterpillar as a company whose human rights record activists would draw attention to according to the resolution.
“Now we can say, given the atrocious human rights record of Caterpillar, given the tens of thousands of Palestinian homes destroyed by Caterpillar in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the city of New Orleans should not be contracting with them,” he said. “And you all passed a unanimous resolution, saying that we shouldn’t.”
BDS has come under immense pressure and damaging accusations of anti-Semitism in the US in recent years, with several states and municipalities passing measures against boycotting Israel.
In October, Hurricane victims in a Houston suburb were told that they could not get assistance from the city if they boycotted Israel.
Earlier in 2017, US Senators from both major parties introduced a bill that would prohibit boycotting Israel. The measure lost support after opposition by free speech advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee celebrated Thursday’s resolution, likening BDS to the drive to boycott the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 60s.
"I don’t want to see the city I live in contracting with companies that profit off of the suffering and occupation of my homeland," Marco Saah, a student at Loyola University in New Orleans said in a statement released by the committee.
"Today’s vote by the City Council is a first step towards ending the City of New Orleans’ complicity with human rights violations and holding corporations accountable for supporting Israel's illegal occupation."
The resolution was introduced by Mayor-elect Latoya Cantrell.
“This resolution specifically recognizes the city’s social and ethical obligations to take steps to avoid contracting with or investing in certain corporations, namely those that consistently violate human rights, civil rights, or labour rights,” Council President Jason Williams said before the vote, according to the Intercept.
All seven members of the council voted in favour of the resolution.