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'Our social and ethical obligation': New Orleans council approves BDS resolution Open in fullscreen

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'Our social and ethical obligation': New Orleans council approves BDS resolution

New Orleans joins the global movement for sanctions against Israel [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 January, 2018

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The city becomes the first in the American south to officially adopt BDS-focused legislation that it calls its 'social and ethical' obligation to honour human rights.
New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Friday underlining its "social and ethical obligations" to avoid contracting with or investing in companies whose practices consistently violate human rights in Palestine.

It follows an initiative pushed by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign that works to promote human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories by boycotting, divesting from and imposing sanctions against Israel.

The resolution is the first of its kind in a major city the American south, also making New Orleans one of the largest cities in the United States to pass BDS-focused legislation of such type.

"This resolution specifically recognises 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," announced council President Jason Williams before voting took place. The resolution was voted through unanimously by all five council members present.

The initiative had been co-sponsored by five of the seven city council members, including mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, and drafted by the city's Palestinian Solidarity Committee. The committee was sparked into action last year amid anger over US President Donald Trump's travel ban on citizens of numerous Arab and muslim-majority countries.

"The City of New Orleans [...] was declared to be a Welcoming City on October 1, 2015, to create a more inclusive, receptive city environment for all populations," the bill reads.

"Consistent with its responsibilities to its residents, the City of New Orleans, has social and ethical obligations to take steps to avoid contracting with or investing in corporations whose practices consistently violate human rights, civil rights or labor rights, or corporations whose practices egregiously contradict efforts to create a prosperous, educated, healthy and equitable society," it stipulates.
Caterpillar is particularly of interest to New Orleans, given the sort of optics of home demolition and the experience so many in New Orleans have with displacement following Katrina

The language used in the bill was purposefully made broad and inclusive, Palestinian Solidarity Committee organiser Max Geller explained to online news organisation The Intercept.

He said that this was to underline the "joint struggle," and common ground between issues faced by Palestinians and residents of New Orleans. Geller highlighted the example of Caterpillar, one of the groups on the BDS boycott list which produces construction machinery including those used by Israeli forces to destroy Palestinians’ homes.

"I think that Caterpillar is particularly of interest to New Orleans, given the sort of optics of home demolition and the experience so many in New Orleans have with displacement following Katrina," Geller said.

"The city itself is really ready to act on the basic tenet of 'people should be able to stay in their homes' and 'displacement is bad.'"

"You can do this in your city too," Geller said, encouraging other pro-Palestinian and human rights-supporting groups. 

The bill was however shunned by some of Louisiana's members of Congress, with staunchly anti-BDS Republican Senator Bill Cassidy dismissing it as "nuts".

BDS actions have come into the spotlight recently, after pop singer Lorde was convinced to cancel her Tel Aviv show by BDS activists.

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