The New Orleans City Council has unanimously passed a resolution proposed by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee, an organization within the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement or BDS, requiring a review of companies' human rights records for all city contracts.
Resolution 18-5 "encourages the creation of a process to review direct investments and contracts for inclusion on, or removal from, the city’s list of corporate securities and contractual partners,” and was introduced by Mayor-elect Latoya Cantrell with five of the seven council members as co-sponsors.
Although it doesn't mention Israel or Israeli violations of Palestinian's human rights, activists argue the measure is in accordance with the BDS movement as it based on the same principles of adherence to international statutes that prohibit the perpetuation of human rights violations.
The BDS movement is a non-violent initiative, inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, which seeks to apply international pressure until Israel ends the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights. Referring to the resolution, council member Jason Williams said: “It’s not very different from the stance that a number of entities took when apartheid was commonplace in South Africa.”
Local pro-BDS activists are celebrating the move. Max Geller, a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee told the Middle East Eye website the resolution was the result of "a full year of direct action by Palestinians living in New Orleans.” Palestinians are the largest Arab population in the city, representing some 20,000 residents.
Activists in New Orleans are also celebrating their local organizing and increased impact.
“January 2017 is when things really took off. We started to show the impact that our people have. It’s not just one or two outliers who hold views that human rights are important and that Palestinian lives matter, [...] We’re showing up with hundreds of people in the middle of the day on a Monday,” Tabitha Mustafa told Mondoweiss.
This major victory comes in the midst of an intense Israeli sponsored attack on the BDS movement in the United States and abroad.
States like New York and Maryland, for example, have passed legislation punishing organizations that endorse the movement, and earlier in 2017 U.S. Democratic and Republican Senators introduced a bill that would prohibit boycotting Israel.
According to Mondoweiss, the measure lost support after opposition by free speech advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union.