(JNS.org) The Sacramento City Council on Aug. 14 unanimously voted to adopt Ashkelon as a sister city, resisting opposition from local Palestinian Americans and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) advocates.
In 2009, California’s capital decided to twin with the Israeli city to match Sacramento’s existing partnership with Palestinian Authority-controlled Bethlehem.
Gail Rubin, representing the Sacramento-Davis area chapter of the pro-Israel education and advocacy group StandWithUs, presented the council with a petition signed by 3,500 people in favor of the Sacramento-Ashkelon partnership. Christians United for Israel also collected signatures to support the initiative.
“While there are destructive groups who don’t want Israel to exist, who will promote hateful actions and rhetoric, including campaigns to try and stop you from making Ashkelon the next sister city, I am here to urge you to reject the hate and political prejudice, and stand by your decision in 2009 that in recognizing a Palestinian city you also agreed to recognize an Israeli city... and that you move forward with your decision to make Ashkelon your next sister city,” Rubin told the council.
Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, said in statement that opposition to the partnership was “part of a larger destructive boycott effort known as ‘BDS’ that hopes to destroy Israel’s image through lies and exaggerations.” Among a crowd of about 250 people at the meeting, partnership opponents accused Israel of displacing Palestinians from Ashkelon when the city was formed and noted the presence of a jail for West Bank and Gaza prisoners there, the Sacramento Bee reported. BDS activists in attendance included two representatives from Jewish Voice for Peace.
“StandWithUs will continue to monitor and oppose such hostile, extremist activities because they mislead people and will never lead to peace,” Rothstein said.
Rubin noted that Ashkelon is a city that “has hospitals that serve people of all faiths including Palestinians” and “treasures diversity, and shares our local American values.”