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Thursday, December 15,2011

Is Nablus Boulder’s weird sister?

By Paul Danish

According to a story in last Sunday’s Camera, a group has emerged that wants to establish a sister city relationship between Boulder and the Palestinian city of Nablus.

Lovely city, Nablus. On Sept. 11, 2001, as 3,000 people were being cremated in jet fuel or ground into bits of bloody hamburger by the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center, the residents of Nablus  were staging a howling, horn-honking, ululating celebration of the attacks and passing out trays of tea and sweets to the celebrants. Guy Benintendi, the activist who came up with the sister city idea, is organizing a “Boulder-Nablus Strategic Planning Conference,” which will be held in Nablus Dec. 27-28.

“Part of the City Council’s requirements for approving a sister city relationship is demonstrating strong citizen-to-citizen support and involvement,” said Essrea Cherin, a Boulder resident who is helping to lead the group, according to the Camera. “So meeting with our partners in Nablus is critical to our being able to establish those relationships.”

She also said the group plans to use its time in Nablus to meet with officials at An Najah National University.

Lovely university, An Najah.

According to an entry at the Anti-Defamation League’s database, a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, students at the university put up a display celebrating one of the Palestinians’ most infamous terrorist attacks in Israel — the suicide bombing of the Sbarro Pizza restaurant in Jerusalem, which had occurred on Aug 9, 2001. It killed 15, including half a dozen children, and wounded 130 more. This is how the display was described:

“According to reports in the Israeli media and the Associated Press, the exhibition was comprised of a series of rooms. The Sbarro section of the exhibit was replete with body parts and pizza slices strewn across the room. The walls were painted red to represent spattered blood.

“Another part of the exhibit glorified the ‘martyrs’ who carry out suicide operations shown with a Koran and Kalishnikov in hand. A third section depicted a Palestinian behind a rock placed in front of a mannequin of an ultra-Orthodox Jew, with a taped recording broadcast on the loudspeakers saying ‘O believer, there is a Jewish man behind me. Come and kill him.’”

The exhibit was so rank that is was closed down a few days after it opened — not by the university administration but on orders from Yasser Arafat, who was concerned by the potential for international blow-back in the wake of 9/11.

The ADL describes the An Najah student council as “comprised of student groups known to be affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have largely dispensed with maintaining the myth that they are not anti-Semitic, but merely anti-Zionist and anti-Israel, and pump out a river to anti-Semitic propaganda that might as well have come out of Julius Streicher’s paper Der Sturmer. In fact, some of it is clearly plagiarized from there. Presumably their student acolytes at An Najah are cool with that.

The ADL says the council “is known for its advocacy of anti-Israel violence and its recruitment of Palestinian college students into terrorist groups,” and that it “glorifies suicide bombings and propagandizes for jihad against Israel.” Hamas has described An Najah as a “greenhouse for martyrs.”

As for the Nablus city government, 13 of the 15 members of the city council are affiliated with Hamas. They were elected in 2005. There haven’t been any elections in Nablus or anywhere else in the West Bank since then, because the Palestinian Authority lives in deathly fear that Hamas would win them.

Over the years Nablus has provided more than its fair share of assorted human bombs and garden-variety terrorists to the Palestinians’ assorted jihads. The most recent turned up in south Tel Aviv on Aug. 28 of this year.

His name was Muhammad Sa’afan, and he was trying to attack an Israeli nightclub with 1,000 teenagers inside.

Security stopped him, but not before he ran down two policemen with a stolen taxi and stabbed six other cops and club guards.

Cherin says the sister cities group’s trip to Nablus is an “essential, required step” because getting things done in Middle Eastern culture is based on making strong personal relationships. Strong, personal relationships, with the folks at An Najah U., huh? Boy, that’s reassuring.

Cherin says that the Sister Cities group wants to talk with officials from An Najah about using technology to connect students in Boulder with students in Nablus. It kind of makes you wonder what’s going to come out of that pipe — and if the sister cities group plans to file an environmental impact statement before opening it.

We can have a long conversation about how Nablus and An Najah University got to be the way they are, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are what they are: Bubbling cesspools of anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and jihad.

With sisters like that, you’re better off if you’re an only child.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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Dear Mr. Danish,

I must commend you for your courage.  It is not easy to stand so boldly and expose the pain that is held in your heart.  We in Boulder know that when one feels such anger and hatred toward another, it is actually the hatred and anger that is held in his or her heart towards him- or herself.  That you are willing to reveal the deep hurt and ache that is within you is noble.  And, yet, your heart will not find salvation in misguided expressions of anger.  I encourage you to find the help you need to heal the wounds that you hold within you. 

Best of luck to you,

Peace N. Love


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There are two sides to every story, but unfortunately, Paul Danish chose to tell only one in his comments about a possible sister city relationship between Boulder and Nablus. There's a world of hurt out there, but a bit of balance would be called for.

In the late 1930s, the Palestinians tried to resist British rule. The Brits demolished an important part of the Old city. In a part of the world where grudges are held for millennia, it is no surprise that people in Nablus haven’t forgotten.

In 1948, when Palestine was divided into Israel and Trans-Jordan, many of thousands of Palestinian Arabs were urged/invited/coerced/forced to leave their homes in what had become the new Jewish State. Three refugee camps still remain in and close to Nablus. Consider the contention the Occupy Movement aroused in American communities over just a couple of months. Then imagine what it might be like for generation upon generation, displaced from their homes, to live in refugee camps for more than 60 years.

In 1967, the Israeli army won the Six-Day War and began occupying Nablus and the rest of West Bank and remained an occupation force for nearly 30 years. The Israelis are, to be diplomatic, not benign occupiers. When the Palestinians inevitably revolted, Israeli forces crushed them time and again with far superior force. They are better armed, better trained and more focused – and they have better bulldozers to demolish homes, apartment buildings, mosques and anyplace else they decide could be  a threat.

The Israelis build walls and “settlements” on the West Bank –and the “settlers” are mostly ultra-right wing ideologues who are willing to live in fortified cities, encircled by high walls, protected by the army (sometimes more soldier than settlers)  and linked to Israel itself by fine highways. The Palestinians meanwhile live in crumbling communities linked by crummy, second-rate roads.

 The Israel army maintains roadside checkpoints here and there, often manned by bored teens with Uzis who entertain themselves by hassling Palestinians. Meanwhile, every little demonstration is met with overwhelming force, with the Israeli army arresting “suspected” terrorists. Habeas corpus? I don’t think there’s a Hebrew word for it. Prisoner exchanges could not involve thousands of Palestinians for an Israel soldier or two if the Israelis were not incarcerating so many “suspects.”

Palestine/the West Bank/the Occupied Territories are reminiscent of the segregated South. The Palestinians are enduring the kind of repression, humiliation and random violence that Southern Blacks went through. I believe that if secular Israelis with a shred of compassion and knew what their rightwing government was doing, they would be as shocked as Americans were when they learned of our military’s prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib.

I visited the West Bank a couple of years ago and was shocked at what Israel’s “security fence” and provocative settlements look like and feel like. I also met representatives of KAIROS, a humanitarian organization that was a force in ending apartheid in South Africa, and is active in the West Bank. I said to a clergyman, “I can’t believe that a country founded for the reasons Israel was can treat other humans so badly.” He replied, “How often do you doest the abused become the abuser?”

I hope that Boulder and Nablus do become sister cities – helping to build bridges instead of endorsing walls.





I think this article by Paul is a screed. Did he bother to speak directly with the organizers of the sister city project? The article suggests that this is almost a terrorist support group. While both sides have made mistakes, Israel has the upper hand and has badly mistreated the Palestinians. We should encourage people like the sister city organizers who care about peace for all concerned not just pushing a blind support for Israel.



 Why anyone still pays attention to Danish's vitriol is beyond me.  FYI, Sacramento and Bethlehem have become sister cities, despite howls from Israeli supporters, and so far no bombs have been dropped here.  There are peaceful people in every Palestinian city who want nothing more than to live without being treated as less than human.  That's not the reality they have today, thanks to Israeli apartheid. Do Americans really want to demonize all those people because of a few?  

If Mr. Danish hasn't visited, I strongly urge him to do so.  His eyes will be opened to a reality he would rather ignore.



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