The Sacramento city council meeting this Tuesday night is set to be the scene of a hot debate. That's when it considers whether to adopt as a "sister city" an Israeli town that’s been victim to numerous terrorist rocket attacks from Gaza. The vote was supposed to be pro forma, until pro-Palestinian activists stepped in and are now pressuring council members to reject adopting Ashkelon. The same activists did not protest the Sacramento council’s decision in 2009 to name “Bethlehem, Palestine” as Sacramento's ninth sister city.
The protesters are employing the same arguments activists with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign use against Israel, including lobbing the false libel that Israel practices “ethnic cleansing.” Adeeb Alzanoon of the Palestinian American Congress tells The Sacramento Bee that the state capital should not accept Ashkelon, because Palestinians were displaced from there during the 1948 war.
But based on that criteria [that in 1948 Palestinian refugees were displaced as a result of the war during which five Arab armies attacked the fledgling Israeli state], no city in Israel could qualify as a sister city, City Councilman Steve Cohn told The Bee. More disturbingly, their opposition to Ashkelon suggests that, for these protesters, no Israeli state on any land would be acceptable.
Christians United for Israel is asking its members to send an e-mail to urge council members not to cave to the Palestinian pressure. A CUFI spokesman tells TheBlaze that as of Sunday night, nearly 22,000 e-mails were sent. In a letter to members, CUFI’s National Chairman Pastor John Hagee and Executive Director David Brog wrote:
Two years ago, the Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to adopt its ninth Sister City: Bethlehem, Palestine. At the time the resolution was passed the Council also unanimously agreed to adopt a Sister City in Israel sometime in the future. Area leaders have nominated Ashkelon, just north of the Gaza strip, for this honor.
Ashkelon was a wise choice. As a city under constant missile attack from Islamic terrorists in Gaza, Ashkelon symbolizes the challenges currently facing the Jewish state and the pressing need for America to stand with our embattled ally. As the home of the largest regional hospital -- which helps both Israelis injured by Gaza's terrorists and Palestinians from Gaza -- this city symbolizes the heart of the Israeli people who are constantly searching for peace and coexistence
Members of the Sacramento City Council are now being inundated with e-mails from across the country asking them to vote against recognizing Ashkelon as a Sister City. This effort appears to be a disturbing new front in the effort to delegitimize Israel in America. If Israel's enemies succeed in Sacramento, they will no doubt be emboldened to oppose other such resolutions across the country.
An anti-Israel petition to the city council has recruited 555 signatures as of this writing. And the pro-Israel group Stand With Us has a letter writing effort underway asking supporters to “say no to this political prejudice and manipulation.”
The Sacramento Bee editorial board is coming down strongly in favor of adopting the Israeli city, citing “two major problems” with the opponents’ case: that the council committed to finding an Israeli city to adopt after it inducted Bethlehem and that the point of the program is “to get past political differences and build bridges between people.”
The anti-Israel activists’ accusation of racism in Ashkelon is ironic, considering that in the Palestinian Authority – which rules Bethlehem – it is illegal to sell any land to Jews, as TheBlaze has previously reported.
CUFI’s David Brog told the Times of Israel:
“Their lead complaint is that Palestinians who aren’t Israeli citizens need “special permits” to enter Ashkelon. Wow, that sounds terrible. Until you realize that the same applies to Americans and anyone else who’s not an Israeli citizen. In fact, Israelis and Palestinians alike need a special permit to visit Sacramento. It’s called a tourist visa.”
Brog also points to the fact that Sacramento recognized Bethlehem as a sister city despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t permit land sales to Jews and has pledged that no Jews will live in a Palestinian state.
“If those opposing the sister city relationship want to find the real practitioners of apartheid, they should look in the mirror,” he said.
Despite the claims of some Palestinians that Ashkelon was originally the Palestinian city “Majdal Asqualan,” The Jewish Press points out that it’s the site of “the most famous haircut in Jewish history – it is where Delilah cut Samson’s hair, depleting his strength, in the famous Biblical story found in Judges XIV-XVI.”
The Sacramento Bee is reporting that some of those protesting the Israeli sister city were also behind the “misguided, ultimately unsuccessful, effort last year to ban Israeli-made products from the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.”