Why I sang during a New Orleans City Council meeting | Letter

On Jan. 25, I stood up during a New Orleans City Council meeting and started singing. I sang with a group of my fellow outraged Jews, including a rabbi, to protest the council’s vote to overturn a human rights resolution. We were there alongside other New Orleanians with a shared vision for justice singing, “In hope. In prayer. We’re right here.”

We were voicing support for a resolution that passed unanimously two weeks before. The Human Rights Investment Screen Resolution was developed by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee in response to President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and was backed by more than 20 grassroots organizations including our group, Jewish Voice for Peace New Orleans. The resolution aligned deeply with our Jewish values of Tzedek (justice) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and had the potential to make an impact locally and globally.

And yet City Council bowed to pressure from the Jewish Federation and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). These institutions opposed the resolution because it was supported by local Palestinians.

A City Council staffer told the Intercept, “It really was more … of where it came from, the group, the Palestinian organization they were working with.” Overturning this bill because of who supports it is clear discrimination.

The ADL and Jewish Federation called the resolution “anti-Semitic” despite no mention of Israel or Judaism. There is nothing anti-Semitic about holding a Jewish nation-state accountable to the same standards as the rest of the world, or about divesting from companies that profit off brutal military occupation and legalized segregation.

The only way to truly eradicate all forms of oppression, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, is to build a world where colonization is nonexistent and all people are able to live in dignity, peace and self-determination. We deplore the cowardice of our City Council, local Jewish clergy and leaders who claim to speak for us. We say: “Not In Our Name.”

So many people showed up to support the resolution that they were turned away at the door and started chanting in the hallway. When we stood up to sing, people around the room spontaneously joined us, despite the threat of arrest. We are disgusted that Jewish leaders have pressured the City Council to withdraw a resolution that affirms human rights. This is why we disrupted City Council, and why we will continue to fight for the liberation of all people, from New Orleans to Palestine.

Rachel Lee

Chapter leader

Jewish Voice for Peace New Orleans

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