Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Will Sacramento Choose an Israel “Sister?”

Will Sacramento Choose an Israel “Sister?”

Alana Goodman

In 2009, the Sacramento City Council designated Bethlehem in Israel as one of Sacramento’s “Sister Cities.” Tomorrow, the council is set to vote on whether to make Ashkelon, Israel, a Sister City as well, and anti-Israel groups are frantically working to kill the initiative:

Supporters and protesters are expected to pack Sacramento City Council chambers when it decides whether to become a sister city with Ashkelon, Israel.

The council has a vote planned Tuesday on whether to add Ashkelon, a frequent target for bombs from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The California capital already has joined up with nine cities, including what it calls “Bethlehem, Palestine,” and has been discussing adding an Israeli town for several years.

Those opposed to becoming a sister city with Ashkelon have waged an active campaign, claiming that Arabs there are second-class citizens and that other Arabs were evicted from the area following Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

Israelis in Ashkelon live under constant threat from Hamas rocket attacks, and suffered regular casualties and injuries before the deployment of Iron Dome. The city falls within the pre-1967 borders, so the objection to Ashkelon as a Sacramento Sister City has nothing to do with territorial disputes — it’s about opposing Israel’s existence, and shoring up the fringe U.S. arm of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

“This is a fundamental attack on Israel’s existence,” said David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, who is leading an effort to support the Sister City initiative. “Luckily, those opposing the Sister City relationship obviously represent a radical fringe of American opinion.”

Brog added that the pro-Israel community “cannot afford to be silent.”

CUFI sent out an action alert urging supporters to contact Sacramento city council officials on behalf of the Sister City initiative. According to the group, there have been 22,500 responses to the action alert since it was launched last Thursday. CUFI members will also be in attendance at the city council vote tomorrow.