Louisiana legislature passes resolutions supporting Israel, state’s Jewish community

Anti-Israel encampment at Tulane University in early May

By Lara Crigger

In a strong show of solidarity with the Jewish community and with Israel, the Louisiana state legislature stood firm against antisemitism and extremist terrorist groups in its most recent session.

During the 2024 session, which ended June 3, Louisiana lawmakers introduced and considered several pieces of legislation that condemned Hamas, denounced antisemitic violence and speech, and affirmed support for Israel and Louisiana’s Jewish community.

The legislature passed two such legislative instruments.

Joint Support for Israel, Condemnation of Hamas

The first, SCR 21, was a concurrent resolution introduced by Senator Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs), as well as House Representatives Bayham, Billions, Carson, Schamerhorn, and Wyble.

A concurrent resolution is one of three resolution types that lawmakers can pass. Concurrent resolutions require approval by both legislative chambers but do not function as binding law. Instead, concurrent resolutions often set or update rules for legislators or express shared sentiments between chambers.

Introduced in mid-March, SCR 21 “memorializes Congress to support the nation of Israel in the wake of the October 7, 2023, terror attacks and Israel’s ongoing efforts to root out Hamas.” To “memorialize Congress” means to officially request Congress take action.

The resolution affirmed Israel’s right to self-defense and expressed condolences for the Oct. 7 attack victims. It also condemned Hamas, calling on the terrorist group to release all hostages, living and dead. Louisiana law enforcement agencies were tasked to “remain vigilant in protecting Israeli Americans and all supporters of Israel.”

Movingly, SCR 21 also acknowledged Israel’s history of support for Louisiana in times of need. “The state of Louisiana has not forgotten the humanitarian aid provided by Israel to the people of Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the 2016 flood,” read the resolution.

SCR 21’s Dramatic Fight to the Finish

SCR 21 sailed through the Senate, adopted on a vote of 26-0. The resolution faced a particularly dramatic advance through the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.

In May, dozens of pro-Palestinian activists attended the committee’s open hearing to register opposition to what they called a “Genocide Resolution.” Activists cited casualty statistics provided by Hamas, shared debunked news stories of mass casualty events, and promoted antisemitic tropes, such as blood libels.

After each activist spoke, Rep. Mike Bayham (R-Chalmette) asked them if they condemned Hamas and its actions. Most activists declined to answer.

In one notable exchange, Bayham asked a Jewish Voice for Peace activist from New Orleans if she had ever called for the release of Israeli hostages. She replied, “I don’t have jurisdiction over that,” only to continue by saying she had publicly called for the release of tens of thousands of Palestinian “hostages,” prisoners held by Israel.

Despite the pushback, SCR 21 made it out of committee without objection. The resolution then passed to the broader House floor, where it was adopted on a vote of 75-8.

Supporting Jewish College Students in Dark Times

Bayham also sponsored HR 353, a resolution to condemn antisemitic violence on college campuses throughout Louisiana.

The resolution cited several specific instances of antisemitism at local universities, including vandalism of campus buildings; antisemitic chants such as “LSU, LSU, you can’t hide; we charge you with genocide” or calling for an Intifada; physical attacks on students at an October 26 rally; destruction of Jewish students’ property at Tulane and Loyola; and the construction of fortified encampments at Tulane and Loyola, at which “Zionists” were specifically barred from entry.

Additionally, HR 353 pointed out that university faculty and administrators had not held the instigators fully accountable for their actions — in some cases, even arguing student suspensions should be dropped in the name of “restorative justice.”

The resolution also expressed support of Jewish college students, faculty, and staff, affirming their rights to feel safe on campus and enjoy full access to classrooms and facilities, without fear of intimidation or violence.

How HR 353 Beat the Clock 

HR 353 began as HCR 123, a concurrent resolution that contained nearly identical text to its final form. HCR 123 breezed through the Committee on Education and through the larger House, which passed the resolution, 71-0.

However, HCR 123 ran into difficulties in the Senate, which delayed calling the resolution for a vote, despite dozens of emails and phone calls from constituents asking them to do so. Without approval from both chambers, HCR 123 would have died when the legislative session ended on June 3.

Sometimes, when a concurrent resolution can’t secure approval from both chambers, its sponsor will repackage the legislation as a “simple resolution.” Simple resolutions, designated by “HR” or “SR,” express sentiments only relevant to one chamber and do not require approval from both House and Senate. They still carry weight, however, as they often express that chamber’s view on policy matters to the executive branch (i.e., the governor).

On the final day of the legislative session, Rep. Bayham repackaged HCR 123’s text and reintroduced it as a simple House resolution, HR 353. Once again, the resolution sailed through the House, adopted on a vote of 88-0.

In addition, Governor Jeff Landry proclaimed May 19 to be a Day of Prayer for Israel in Louisiana.

Resolutions Left on the Cutting Room Floor

Several other pieces of legislation relevant to Louisiana’s Jewish community were not adopted, however.

These included a bill that would have mandated Holocaust education in Louisiana classrooms (HB 928), resolutions that would have urged the Department of Education to prohibit the use of “edu-tainment” videos said to peddle in “anti-Semitic tropes” [sic] (HR 323 and SR 152), and a resolution introduced by Rep. Joy Walters (D-Shreveport) that would have designated her House District 4 as a “place of sanctuary for supporters of Israel and supporters of Palestinians” (HR 263).

There have also been anti-Israel legislative efforts. At the local level, pro-Palestinian activists have pushed for “ceasefire resolutions” at New Orleans and Baton Rouge city council meetings and urged the Port of New Orleans to cancel contracts with the Port of Ashdod. So far, their efforts have yet to meet with success.