Forget Nablus and mediation — there’s a better choice for sister city


About 20 or 30 years ago, some local peace and justice activists decided to resolve the conflict over abortion by bringing representatives of the two sides together to settle their differences through constructive dialogue leading to mutual understanding.

The effort bombed of course. All the participants (except maybe the clueless mediators) knew going in that the conflict over abortion was not the product of mutual misunderstanding but of mutual understanding of irreconcilable differences.

Each side knew exactly where the other side was coming from. They understood each other’s positions perfectly, found them mutually loathsome, rejected them categorically and left determined to carry on the fight, probably more convinced than ever of the moral righteousness of their respective causes, having seen the other side close up.

The abortion wars are not susceptible to mediation and conflict resolution, because they are based on foundational religious and political beliefs. Pro-life activists believe they are on a mission from God; pro-choice activists believe they are on a mission to defend natural rights and the Constitution.

As it was with abortion, so it is with Nablus.

Which is why I think the City Council’s decision to deal with the third outbreak of the Nablus sister city conflict by spending $10,000 on a mediator charged with getting the sides to resolve their differences is a similar fool’s errand that’s likely to end with a similar pratfall.

The Nablus sister city conflict is not going to be solved by a mediator any more than the underlying Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going to be solved by a mediator.

The pro- and anti-Nablus sides both understand that the sister cities issue is just a small skirmish in the broader dispute, but one that could have outsized consequences.

If Boulder enters into a sisterly relationship with Nablus, a city that demonstrably considers itself at war not just with Israel but with the Jewish people, that marinates its children in anti-Semitism and the theology of Jihad, that celebrates suicide attacks on civilians and embraces the worst pathologies of militant Islam, it will mean Boulder is taking sides in the conflict, legitimizing the conduct of the Palestinians, delegitimizing Israel and setting an example for other cities to follow.

It’s inconceivable that both the sister city advocates and opponents don’t know this, and I find it very hard to believe that the City Council doesn’t as well.

Establishing a sister city relationship with Nablus at this time would be like establishing a sister city relationship with Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge ran the place.

That much the City Council does know, and thus the mediation charade — which is just a lame attempt to kick the can down the road in the hope that the problem will go away. It won’t. And if there’s the least bit of doubt that the putative mediation effort is a charade, consider this: The representatives of the two sides to the mediation will not be picked by the parties themselves, but by the city manager and a couple of council members. That strikes me as an attempt to rig the game to produce a “compromise” that the City Council might embrace, but which the parties will (correctly) consider a manipulated outcome.

The City Council should say no to Nablus. Now. And save the City a few dollars and a lot of brain damage.

But if Boulder has its heart set on establishing a sister city relationship with a city whose ideas and values differ from its own in a lot of areas, how about establishing a relationship with a city that Boulderites could visit without having to fear for their lives — especially if they happened to be Jewish.

Or one where casually dressed Boulder female tourists can walk the streets unescorted without fear of being raped by the local home boys waving an exculpatory fatwa from their trash-talking mullah.

Or one where blowing yourself up among civilians is considered a crime against humanity and an offense before the almighty instead of a martyr’s ticket to paradise.

Or one where the main university does not have a student government run by religious crazies engaged in recruiting human bomb and jihadi wannabes from among their classmates.
Or one that you can visit without having to obtain a passport and fly halfway around the world.

Or one where even if the locals think Boulderites are infidels, heretics and unbelievers, they aren’t going to cut your throat for expressing some real, imagined, or theoretical blasphemy in their presence.

Or one that, like Nablus, is full of people who have a studied contempt for Boulder values, but who, unlike the residents of Nablus, have sworn to fight to the death to defend Boulderites’ right to hold them — and who in many cases have done so.
Happily there is such a city, and establishing a sister city relationship with it would probably do more to create meaningful people-to-people friendship and mutual understanding among believers and non-believers than sister city relationships with a dozen Nabluses could ever hope to do.

Of course, chances are members of Boulder’s sister city committee would recoil in horror at the mere mention of its name: Colorado Springs.

This opinion column does not reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.