Two U.S. Mayors Boycott Conferences Excluding Jerusalem

The mayors of New York and Boston are boycotting two separate international conferences devoted to great cities of the world because Jerusalem has not been invited.

Mayor Ed Koch of New York canceled his appearance at the Capitals of the World Conference, which opened in Ottawa Tuesday and closes Friday. And Mayor Raymond Flynn of Boston announced he will not be going to the World Conference of Historical Cities in Kyoto, Japan, next month even though Boston, Kyoto’s sister city, was the only American city invited to the conclave.

Koch, invited to speak at the conference in Ottawa, pulled out because the invitation to Israel from Ottawa Mayor Jim Durrell went to Mayor Shlomo Lahat of Tel Aviv. Lahat returned it with a note saying the invitation was mis-addressed.

A spokesman for Durrell said Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek was not invited to be a delegate because the mayor “did not want to embarrass the federal government.” Canada does not recognize Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital.

To make amends, Kollek was invited as a guest speaker but declined. Larry Simonberg, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “If Mayor Kollek doesn’t find it acceptable, Mayor Koch does not find it acceptable either. He’s not going if Teddy is not being treated equally.” He noted that Koch and Kollek are close friends.

Flynn officially announced his rejection of the invitation from Kyoto in the presence of Kollek Tuesday at the International Leadership Reunion of the United Jewish Appeal in Boston. Flynn first raised the issue of Jerusalem’s exclusion at a luncheon last June honoring Kyoto city officials who had promised to seek a reversal of that decision. But by August, when no movement on the issue appeared likely, he said he refused to attend the Kyoto conference if Jerusalem were excluded.

The invitation was in fact a singular honor for Boston inasmuch as the Japanese are inviting only cities that are at least 1,200 years old. Jerusalem is eminently qualified. The decision not to invite it stemmed from the “political dispute” that followed the 1980 United Nations resolution condemning Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem.

Jewish community leaders in Boston actively urged city officials to boycott the conference. Leonard Zakim, New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, told the JTA after Flynn’s announcement that Kollek was very happy about the decision and praised Flynn for his “courageous and firm stand on behalf of the people of Boston and the people of Jerusalem.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts wrote to the Japanese ambassador to the United States protesting “the exclusion of one of the world’s most historical cities” from the Conference of Historical Cities. He made it clear that the state of Massachusetts also could not participate in any way in the conference, Zakim said.

He added that “the message that the Mayor of Boston is sending to the Japanese government and to the people of Kyoto is that they have to understand that there is a cost that they have to bear for taking that position that is not friendly to Israel.”

(Ben Kayfetz in Toronto also contributed to this story.)

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