Late Wednesday a joint statement penned by Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans CEO and Anti-Defamation South Central Region director Aaron Ahlquist spoke to the combined efforts of the two organizations following the adoption Friday of New Orleans City Council R-18-5, a resolution that had been promoted as pro-BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement by the New Orleans Pro-Palestinian Solidarity Council (NOPPSC).
Additionally signed by Federation president Henry Miller and Human Relations Council chairman Bradley Bain, the statement delineated specific tasks they have taken “to educate and engage” members of the City Council and Mayor-elect Latoya Cantrell’s transition team as to the history and dangers of the BDS movement.
“We have jointly advocated that the resolution be both reconsidered and then withdrawn by the Council, the procedural mechanism the Council would utilize to reverse the resolution,” the two CEOs said.
A statement released earlier int he afternoon by Council president Jason Williams, admittedly the person who sponsored the resolution,
We are encouraged that Council President Jason Williams released a statement this afternoon (please see below) unequivocally voicing support for Israel and the Jewish community, and indicating his intent to pursue corrective action on the resolution.
“I am sad to say that I was not aware of the ‘BDS movement,’ its origin or its mission,” the councilman announced. “Let me be very clear to citizens of New Orleans and citizens of the world; this City Council is not anti-Israel. That sentiment is inconsistent with the Council’s actions and certainly mine personally.”
Williams further acknowledged that earlier in the same meeting, the Council has praised the collaboration and dedication of the members of the Jewish community. “It was certainly not our intention to close the meeting with an insult. This clearly occurred, and that was unintentional,” the Williams statement added.
“Although I did not draft this ordinance or participate in its construction, after being asked last week by a fellow Councilmember I did agree to co-sponsor it based on a reading of the language within the four corners of the document and its articulated intended purpose as a resolution on human rights. I do not believe it was introduced under suspension for any nefarious purpose. However, it is clear that it was certainly a mistake in doing so. Because of the introduction under suspension, the discussion of the resolution before the City Council vote was not a diverse space of various viewpoints. It did not give notice or opportunity to dear friends and New Orleans residents who rightly feel deeply aggrieved by this vote. Therefore, I think it is important to reconsider this matter. I will be moving to reconsider this item at the next City Council meeting on the regular agenda to allow for the opportunity to hear from all perspectives.”
Fieklow and Ahlquist both believe the action to reconsider the resolution will take place at the next meeting of the City Council slated for Thursday, January 25.
Members of the community are also encouraged to reach out to the New Orleans City Council in a constructive manner, they said.