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Boulder Colorado – Nablus, West Bank, Palestine Sister City Project: ADL Tried To Derail (What A Surprise!)

May 2, 2013
arresting Palestinian youth

An all too common scene: Palestinian Youth Arrested in West Bank for protesting Israeli bombing of Gaza…Jan, 2013

The Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project has been functioning out of Boulder Colorado for several years now. I don’t work with them, but have met and had coffee with a few of the key players in that organization and very much like the tone and the content of what they are trying to do – essentially build – if you like – `people to people’ relationships between Boulder Colorado and Nablus, West Bank, Palestine.

I would hope that the city of Boulder, with its humanistic, environmentally friendly traditions would not give into such pressures  that they are now experiencing that would torpedo the project and that they, the city council, evaluate the Boulder-Nablus sister city project on its own, very considerable merits.

If, on some vague level, the project is – as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) suggests – `political’, it is so in the sense that any and all human relationships are, on some level political, either for their direct political program or lack there of.The work of this project is thoughtful, carefully thought out and within a generically humanistic tradition of building non-governmental human bridges between Boulder, Nablus and the people in both places.

Actually it is not the project itself that is political so much as the Anti-Defamation League’s, brain-dead, narrow-minded, bullying and typically bigoted (when it comes to anything having to do with Middle East oriented peace activities) approach that has politicized the issue and made it into a political football that it shouldn’t be.

Nor is this the first time that the ADL has intervened, in an attempt to shape or control the public dialogue when it comes to Israel – Palestine.  It has happened frequently here in Colorado and elsewhere. I cite as examples, simply two local cases; there are a gazillion more:

– the full court press that the ADL, in coordination with a number of local rabbis to derail the founding convention of Friends of Sabeel in Colorado seven years ago. Great pressure was placed on the Montview Presbyterian Church at the time, to cancel the event.  Breaking with an unspoken tradition, to its credit at the time, Montview did not capitulate to that pressure. Friends of Sabeel, a generally moderate supporter of Israeli-Palestinian peace making, has been targeted and smeared ever since, one of many peace organizations that the Israel’s supporters has tried to bully into silence. In fact, the ADL has a history of targeting not so much the more radical, but the more moderate elements in the peace movement, those whom they fear might bring their views on the Israeli-Palestinian issue into the mainstream – be it to academia, city government, or more mainstream religious institutions.

– then there was the ADL offices in Boulder, set up primarily to spy upon and counter the influence of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, but I’ll let the Center speak for itself, elaborate on that one if it so wishes. There are other such cases one could cite locally, but why beat a dead horse?

If the ADL was serious as it claims to be publicly, for a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, they would actually be encouraging the Boulder-Nablus Sister City project, not undermining it using their well-worn tactics. What is `anti-Jewish’, `anti-semitic’, or frankly anti-Israel about a relationship between the two cities? Nothing. Is it more that such a relationship is not `filtered’ through ADL approved channels or contacts? In fact, I would argue that creating such a sister-city relationship would be a very Jewish thing to do, well within Jewish traditions of sympathy and solidarity with oppressed peoples. 

The ADL is an organization that has wandered far from its roots, long past its prime. My own impression that it is an un-reformable Cold War relic out of touch with mainstream thinking in today’s American Jewish Community, especially its youth. It would be doing the Jewish Community a genuine favor if it urged its Alan Deshowitzes, Abe Foxmans into retirement, either gently or less so, closed shop and thought about putting together a new Jewish civil rights organization (one is certainly still needed) not funded by rightwing Jewish billionaire developers and their shyster legal teams, trying to clean up their past crimes through philanthropy (the Rockefeller tradition).

Jews in the United States need a politically active civil rights organization but one that reflects the current realities of being Jewish in America, and that includes a growing wave of sympathy for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation; true, anti-semitism is far from dead and as is well known on the rise. Ironically the place where it is most on the rise is among the Christian Right, nut cases like John Hagee, exactly the types with which that the ADL and AIPAC find common cause, especially where it concerns yet strengthening and tightening the Israeli hold on the West Bank and denying the Palestinians their right to a national homeland.

These past decades, the ADL has a long and sorry history of obstructionism, outright spying on peace movements, sharing information with the FBI, illegal wiretapping ( a case in Colorado where the ADL was fined $60 million in the late 1990s), etc. etc. Such is the Abe Foxman legacy – turning an organization that once upon a time was one of America’s vanguard civil rights organizations into little more than a watchdog for Israel in the United States. According to Victor Navasky, even in earlier days, during the dark days of McCarthyism, the ADL cooperated with the FBI in `naming names’ of its more liberal and left-wing members in exchange for the FBI not going after the organization as a whole. I do not know whether the Mountain States ADL keeps tabs, careful records on Colorado  peace activists, but that is what has gone on in other regional offices, so it is logical to assume that similar practices could take place here in Colorado.

Below is an email sent out by Tom Mayer, from the Colorado Coalition Against Attacking Iran. It has some information about the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project and information about how to contact the Boulder City Council…

________________________

Hello peace and justice activists:

The Boulder City Council is currently debating whether to give official status to the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project.  As you may know, Nablus is a city of about 125,000 located in the West Bank of Palestine about 30 miles north of Jerusalem.  The basic purpose of the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project is to foster closer relations between people in Palestine and the United States.  Such relations, it is hoped,  will encourage a more even handed foreign policy by the US government and will help (in a small way) to generate a just resolution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
 
Right wing forces in Boulder (especially right wing Zionists) strongly oppose the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project.  They are placing intense pressure on the Boulder City Council to deny it official status.  The organizers of the Project are asking their supporters to send letters to the Council urging that the Sister City endeavor be given official status.  E-mail letters can be sent to council@bouldercolorado.gov.  A single e-mail will be distributed to all nine Boulder City Council members.  To have any impact, such letters must be sent in the next few days.
 
In the big picture of Middle Eastern conflicts, the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project is a small thing; but it is not insignificant.  The controversy in which the Boulder City Council is embroiled tests the current balance of effective public opinion about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  If the Project is accorded official status in Boulder, other communities will be encouraged to take similar initiatives.  Political effectiveness depends, in good measure, on choosing the proper battles and seizing the proper moments.  A letter on this local matter submitted in the next few days could have a real impact on issues important to all of us.
 
Reproduced below is the letter I sent yesterday to the Boulder City Council.
 
                                                                Peace and Justice,
                                                                Tom Mayer

April 30, 2013

Dear Boulder City Council:

                I am writing in support of the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project.  This project can make a significant contribution towards achieving a just and peaceful settlement for the long standing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  

              Most people in the United States know very little about the history or current situation of the Palestinian people.   This lack of knowledge has fostered pernicious stereotypes about Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular.  These stereotypes often prevent the United States from taking constructive actions that would help to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  The Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project will generate more accurate knowledge about the Palestinian people, and also more sympathy for the extremely difficult conditions under which they live.  This knowledge and this sympathy will surely enhance the possibility of achieving an enduring peace in this troubled region.

                Some people seem to think that the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project is harmful to the interests of Jews in the United States and/or Israel.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The long term presence of Jews in the Middle East depends upon achieving a mutually satisfactory resolution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict.  If this does not happen, the consequences will be deadly for everyone in the region.  By improving the chance of peace, the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project will be beneficial for Jews in both the United States and Israel.

             You may be interested to know that I am Jewish by origin, and that my family suffered terribly in the Nazi Holocaust.  I myself narrowly escaped from Germany as an infant.  Thus it is certainly not insensitivity to Jewish suffering that makes me to support enthusiastically the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project.  On the contrary, my support for derives from a keen desire to prevent future genocides regardless of whom they may victimize.

 

                                                                                Sincerely,

                                                                                Tom Mayer

10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2013 11:19 am

    this in an email from a long time gay socialist activist in ny city…

    “Nothing the ADL does surprises me – it has, in total, done more to damage the image of Israel than any of us, her critics”

    (rjp)

  2. May 2, 2013 11:21 am

    this in an email from a Palestinian friend who lives in Nablus…

    “thanks for sharing this…I am trying to keep up with the increasingly heated give and take on this issue. I follow Guy’s commentaries on his FB page. You know, I participated in this project for a while before leaving CO.

    The ADL and other odious voices seeking to cut-off the project think that the more you deprive Palestinians from reaching to people especially in the US the more ADL and cronies can go on and on with their propaganda and distorted logic that turned into the life-blood of these folks.

    As Americans come to know our life, culture, traditions, arts, education…etc…ADL can no more vilify Palestinians and capitalize on peoples’ ignorance.”

    (rjp)

  3. May 2, 2013 11:25 am

    this in an email from a young Jewish guy who is also a member of a very popular local band (the Flobots)

    “This is so great! I’ve always thought a sister city relationship with a Palestinian city was the way to go.”

    (rjp)

  4. May 2, 2013 11:30 am

    this from a `Facebook’ reply from a Boulder-based, Denver theater critic and fellow yid-radical

    “I thought it was telling that the [Boulder] Camera headlined their article about this something like Jewish groups oppose sister city. In the very last paragraph, they tell readers the city council has received seven letters in opposition and thirty-five in support.”

    (rjp) note – I haven’t seen the Boulder Daily Camera article…

  5. May 2, 2013 11:44 am

    Hurray Rob for your excellent article and it is wonderful to see the notes of support you have received. I heard just an hour ago that city council just received (last night) 40 more letters from the Boulder community on this subject. Some for and some opposed. I encourage everyone to write even a short note of support to council@bouldercolorado.gov in order to help the cause.

    In partnership,

    Essrea
    Board Chair, Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project

  6. Joseph Maizlish permalink
    May 2, 2013 12:23 pm

    This campaign is neither more nor less “political” an effort than campaigns for sister-cityhood among other world cities, including cities in Israel. The opposition likely arises from an effort to reject the guilt associated with suppression of the rights of the non-Jewish residents of Palestine/Israel. However, instead of re-evaluating the past and present and undoing the oppression, the opponents of sisterhood increase the volume of their cries.

  7. John F. KaNE permalink
    May 3, 2013 9:43 am

    I just sent the following note to the Boulder City Council:

    Dear members of the Boulder City Council:

    While I’m not a Boulder resident, I am a Colorado citizen who pays attention to issues involving Israel and Palestine. I am an emeritus professor of religion at Regis University who regularly taught courses on the complex relationships of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – especially as they play out both in the contemporary Middle East and in US politics and culture. I was also for years a member of and one-time chairperson of a Catholic-Jewish dialogue group in Denver (co-hosted by the ADL and the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver).

    I understand from the news that the Boulder-Nablus Sister City relationship has been questioned for being “political.” I admit that I know little of the activities of this particular Sister City program. Yet it strikes me that the whole concept of “sister cities” and the group to group, individual to individual relationships thereby encouraged is exactly the kind of cultural politics our world so-much needs. Insofar as criticism of the Boulder-Nablus relationship comes from Jewish groups like the ADL, then I believe it is their politics that need questioning.

    We very much need to work for peace in the Middle East and against religious-cultural prejudice here at home. Anti-Semitism must be condemned, but so too must Jewish activism which (rhetoric notwithstanding) places the interests of Israel above the interests of peace. If there is clear evidence that the Boulder-Nablus group has indulged in anti-semitism (something quite different from legitimate criticism of Israeli policy), then that should be challenged and corrected. Yet allegation and innuendo from pro-Israel fundamentalists, where it is clearly in evidence, must also be challenged and corrected.

    John F. Kane
    Professor Emeritus, Religious Studies, Regis University

  8. Guy Benintendi permalink
    May 3, 2013 2:01 pm

    Hi Rob, Thanks for your supportive piece. Please add me to the distribution list for your blog. Best Regards, Guy Benintendi

  9. Joan Graff permalink
    May 5, 2013 8:40 am

    My letter supporting the sister city project between Boulder and Nablus appeared May 4th in the Daily Camera. I was one of the 35 original letter writers to the Boulder City Council supporting the sister city project. In that letter I mentioned that I was Jewish. I too feel that the ADL should totally change its leadership and realize that they are not reaching young
    members of the American Jewish community who do not support Israel policies without
    questioning the wisdom of those policies and are often much more critical of the
    treatment of the Palestinians living in the west bank than their parents.
    Please add me to your distribution list too, Joan Graff

    • May 5, 2013 8:43 am

      Can I add your name to our list? Thanks for your comments

      Sent from my iPhone

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