In Boulder, twinning with both the Israeli and Palestinian narratives


This week, we reported on a failed bid to establish a twinning relationship between Boulder, Colo., and the Palestinian city of Nablus.

The council voted the proposal down 6-3, but encouraged supporters and opponents to find common ground  and work on accommodating both the Israeli and the Palestinian narratives.

“I am uncomfortable that our community is so up in arms over this and so conflicted,” council member Suzy Ageton told the Boulder Daily Camera, which was first to cover the story. “I would encourage the Nablus group to reach out.”

Those in opposition to the proposal said the group promoting the sister-city relationship had political motivations. Approving Nablus, they said, would be like choosing a side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Many Boulder Jews spoke out against the initiative. Beth Ornstein, a member of Bonai Shalom, told the Daily Camera: “It is dividing our Boulder community, rather than uniting us to work for peace.”

Ornstein is affiliated with the Israel Action Network, an advocacy group affiliated with both the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. IAN said the problem was not with Nablus per se, but with the lack of an Israeli partner.

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, if nothing else, complex,” Geri Palast, managing director of the Israeli Action Network, said in a statement. “The Israel Action Network lauds the Boulder community for their careful and thoughtful consideration of this challenging proposal. The decision to instead pursue partnerships that recognize both Israeli and Palestinian narratives equally is not only fair, but far more productive. Embracing a model of reconciliation will do much more to promote an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than the alternative, which only serves to perpetuate it.”

Marc Soloway, the rabbi of Bonai Shalom, said in a video posted on the Daily Camera website that he believed such initiatives “will cause more divisiveness and conflict than peace building.”

Mayor Matt Appelbaum — who is Jewish — told the Daily Camera that the proposal had merit, but he was concerned that the proponents were supportive of the government in Nablus, making it political.

Those supporting the twinning initiative said the effort was not a political endeavor, but instead an opportunity to meet and learn from Palestinians. No other U.S. city appears to have a sister-city relationship with Nablus.

Essrea Cherin, president of the board of the sister-city project, told the Daily Camera, “Boulderites will come to experience a unique culture that we don’t have a lot of exposure to in Boulder.”

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