New Orleans City Council staffer targeted in anti-Israel vandalism

During the night of May 16, vandals attacked the Zuckerman home in New Orleans, drenching an Israeli flag in red paint, which spread over the front of the house. On May 19, members of their congregation, Gates of Prayer in Metairie, came by to help clean up, along with representatives of the City Council.

Julia Zuckerman is an aide to City Council Vice President J.O. Morrell. The council issued a statement condemning the attack, saying that the red paint likely was to symbolize blood, as a protest against Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza. “Regardless of anyone’s passionate feelings on this issue, threats, vandalism, harassment, and violence are not the answer. The Jewish staff person’s family, including her two small children, woke up to their home desecrated. All our families deserve to feel safe at home, including public servants who work tirelessly to make our city a better place. We will not tolerate hate in our community.”

The Huntlee Village Neighborhood Association tweeted support for the council’s statement.

Gates of Prayer Rabbi David Gerber said the vandalism “was a cowardly act of Jew-hatred that no one should experience.”

The Israeli flag, flying from the second floor balcony, seemed to be the focal point of the attack, with red paint also coming down a balcony post to the lower railing, and also hitting a poster about abducted Israelis in Gaza, and a “Reproductive Freedom is a Jewish Value” sign. Some paint also made it to the front windows.

They had started flying the flag after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

Among those helping clean up on May 19 was City Council President Helena Moreno. “This is not New Orleans,” she said about the attack. “This is not who we are.”

Gerber said that while they were able to wash away “the act of hate,” there were some things outside the capability of the volunteers. “We need to bring in a professional painting crew for the front of their house as well as some updated security.”

The congregation set up an online fundraiser with a $5,000 goal.

Targeting the Council

For weeks, a coalition of anti-Israel groups has been pressuring the council to pass a ceasefire resolution that would call for Israel to stop its actions in Gaza, claiming Israel is using starvation and massacring Gazans. There is no call for Hamas to stop its actions or free the Israeli hostages, nor any mention of a peace agreement between the sides.

The groups, which include the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace and NOSHIP, also call for New Orleans to stop doing business with Israel, especially the Port of New Orleans and local universities, and express support for activists who have been arrested at illegal encampments, such as the one that was broken up earlier in the month at Tulane.

The groups have sought to flood the public comment time at Council meetings. There was an organized effort for the May 16 meeting, including offers of breakfast for those attending, along with a rally.

In 2018, a similar coalition of groups presented the council with a “human rights” bill that did not mention Israel, and after it passed, celebrated it as a win for the boycott-Israel movement. The city council, surprised by that interpretation of the resolution, rescinded it two weeks later in a highly contentious meeting.

In the responses to the City Council’s statement on X, some commented that the Israeli flag is a “symbol of white supremacism,” that instead of vandalism a street protest in front of the home would have been better, and that the council “was ok with suppressing ant-genocide (sic) voices.”

Another wrote “hopefully both you and the staff member live in fear as long as the israel (sic) project exists.”

The New Orleans Police and FBI are investigating this as a hate crime, but no arrests have been made.