Sister Cities

Invest in Justice by Building Genuine Connections

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Image via Sacramento to Bethlehem

Cities for Palestine by the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

WHAT’S THE CAMPAIGN ABOUT?

Invest in justice by building genuine connections between US and Palestinian cities, towns, villages, or refugee camps through a sister city relationship. Sister Cities promote ties between community members in both places to learn about each other’s lives and work together on projects to support one another.

Sister Cities have transformed US city officials’ and other residents’ understanding of what is happening in Palestine through personal and official connections with Palestinians living under Israeli apartheid. Sister Cities also open the door to delegations to Palestine, including by city officials.

Current official and unofficial sister cities between the US and Palestine include: 

WHAT CAN YOU DO? 

Establish a sister city relationship between your city and a city, town, village, or refugee camp in Palestine. Maintain and grow that relationship in the years to come.

SUCCESS STORIES

MUSCATINE-RAMALLAH
In Muscatine, IA, residents with relationships in Ramallah, including Palestinians, led a sister city campaign. Despite being met with tremendous opposition, the campaign succeeded in 2011 thanks to long-term relationship building with city council members and the mayor. The sister city project has focused on projects connecting Muscatine and Ramallah middle school students through art and social media, and has allowed Muscatine residents to gain awareness of what life is like for Palestinians in occupied Ramallah. There have been multiple Muscatine to Ramallah delegations, and there is an delegation being planned for city officials.

BOULDER-NABLUS
The Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project began as a campaign led by Boulder residents  inspired by personal relationships with Nablus residents. Their first attempt in 2013 was so controversial that Palestine dominated local news headlines for weeks, capturing the attention of the entire city – the city’s livestream of the hearing was so widely watched that it crashed! The campaign was massively effective at reaching folks who don’t consider themselves political but care about people-to-people connections and cultural exchange. An official sister city relationship was passed in 2016.

To Prison, Again, for Protesting Against Israel’s Colonial Rule

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack pens a powerful Op-Ed in Haaretz on his arrest, putting into context his act of solidarity with Palestinians who face altogether different circumstances than his own.

The Ofer military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 2, 2009.
The Ofer military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 2, 2009. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Jonathan Pollak, Haaretz, Jan 07, 2020

I am currently detained in an Israeli jail, the result of refusing to attend or cooperate with criminal charges laid against me and two others for joining Palestinian protests in the West Bank against Israel’s colonial rule. Because I am an Israeli citizen, the proceedings in the case are held in an Israeli court in Jerusalem and not at the military court, where Palestinians are tried.

>> Police arrest left-wing activist Jonathan Pollak in Haaretz building

It has been almost nine years since the last time I was incarcerated for more than a day or two. Much has changed since. Politically, reality does not even resemble that of a decade ago, and none of the changes were for the better.

Politically, the world seems to have lost much of its interest in the Palestinian struggle for liberation, placing Israel at one of the historical peaks of its political strength. I am in no position to discuss the profound changes within Israeli society and how even farther to the right it has drifted. Israeli liberals are much better suited for such a task, because they hold their country dear and feel a sense of belonging that I cannot feel and do not want to feel.


Jonathan Pollak at Hermon Prison in 2011. (Yaron Kaminsky)

Personally, I am older, more tired and, mostly, not as healthy as I was. Of course, the price I have paid for my part in the struggle is a fraction of that paid by Palestinian comrades, but I cannot deny its subjective weight on me: from physical injuries, some irreversible, through sporadic despair, anxiety and sense of helplessness, to the encumbering sensation of loss and the presence of death – and the grip all these have on my day-to-day life. And yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Right now, just as it was back then, sitting in prison is better than any other alternative available to me.

The legal fallacies that riddle the case against us are of little significance. While it is fair to assume that had I agreed to cooperate, the trial would have ended up with an acquittal, my refusal to recognize the court’s legitimacy is based on two main grounds.

The first is that my Palestinian comrades do not enjoy the luxury of being tried in the relatively comfortable conditions of the Israeli courts. Rather, they are tried as subjects in the parody of a legal system that are Israel’s military courts. Unlike me, Palestinians do not have the option of refusing to cooperate with their captors, since the vast majority of them are tried while remanded into custody for the duration of their proceedings.

Additionally, the punishment Palestinians are faced with is significantly harsher than that specified in Israeli law. Thus, in this regard as well, despite refusing to recognize the court’s legitimacy, the price I am likely to pay is significantly lower than that paid by my comrades.

The second, more fundamental ground to refuse to cooperate is that all Israeli courts, military or otherwise, lack any legitimacy to preside over matters of resisting Israeli colonial rule, which employs a hybrid regime, ranging between a distorted and racially discriminatory democracy in its sovereign territory and a flat-out military dictatorship in the occupied territories.

Faced with the tremendous shift to the right in Israeli politics, the shrinking remnants of the Zionist left – once the country’s dominant elite group – are consumed by lamenting the decline of Israeli democracy. But what democracy is it they wish to defend? The one that has dispossessed its Palestinian citizens of their lands and their rights? The one that, at best, views these Palestinian citizens as second-class? Perhaps it is the democracy that governs the Gaza Strip through vicious siege while it reigns as a military dictatorship in the West Bank?

Despite the obvious nature of the Israeli regime, Israeli liberals are not willing to contest the fundamental premise of internal Israeli discourse and acknowledge that the State of Israel simply is not a democracy. Never was.

To join the fight to topple Israeli apartheid, the few Jewish citizens of Israel willing to do so will first have to recognize that they are overprivileged and be willing to pay the price of relinquishing that status. An open rebellion against the regime has been taking place for decades, carried out by the Palestinian resistance movement. The price paid by those involved in it is immense. Jewish citizens of Israel must cross over and walk in their footsteps.

Related Articles

February 25, 2019
Black Americans and Palestinian Solidarity

UW Multicultural Center
716 Langdon Street
Madison
8:15 pm – 9:15 pm

General meeting of UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine discusses the history of Black and Palestinian oppression and the roles that both have played in fighting it.

Other topics will include recognizing interconnections, co-opting struggles, and avoiding the conflation of these struggles. Free and open to the public. More info on Facebook.

Honor Dr. Angela Davis

This February, join USCPR and the Dream Defenders by showing solidarity with all the radical voices that continue to be silenced for speaking up against injustice, from the US to Palestine.

On January 4, 2019, bowing to pressure from Zionist members of the Birmingham community, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) voted to rescind its decision to bestow its highest honor, the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award, on renowned Black scholar and activist Angela Davis. Dr. Davis is the latest in a long line of Black internationalist voices to be attacked for their support of Palestine.

Leaders like Dr. Davis are targeted because they articulate the connections between global systems of oppression bearing down on Indigenous, Black, brown, queer, and other marginalized communities. They recognize that white supremacy, settler colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy all reinforce each other and cannot be fought in isolation. Work for justice for one community must be part of a vision of justice for all.

“Black solidarity with Palestine allows us to understand the nature of contemporary racism more deeply.” – Angela Davis

Since the BCRI’s decision to revoke the Shuttlesworth Award was announced, there has been an outpouring of support for Dr. Davis from progressives and activists across movements. The BCRI has reconsidered its decision, and a diverse, intergenerational cross-section of grassroots and community leaders in Birmingham announced an alternative public event to honor Dr. Davis on February 16, the day she was supposed to receive the BCRI award.

Join us in honoring Dr. Angela Davis and the uncompromising ideals with which she has fought injustice.


Here are some actions you can take this February to show your solidarity with Angela Davis, Black internationalists, and the Palestinian people:

  • Learn about the connections between the Palestinian struggle and Black, Indigenous, Latinx, anti-gentrification, feminist, and queer struggles in our digital political education curriculum Freedom Bound: Resisting Zionism and White Supremacy.
  • Visit Freedom-Bound.org, an artistic and historical account of the shared, interconnected struggle for collective liberation inspired by the rich legacy of Black-Palestinian solidarity.
  • Read Freedom is a Constant Struggle, in which Angela Davis reflects on the importance of Black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism, contextualizing these struggles within the framework of global struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement, from Ferguson to Palestine. Better yet – start a book club! We’ve got two free chapters and a study guide to get you started.
  • Get involved! Find local actions and organizations geared towards decriminalizing Black youth, demilitarizing law enforcement, and abolishing prisons as we know them, through the Movement for Black Lives. Check out Stop Urban Shield and No Cop Academy for examples of actions that you can take to oppose the police militarization which aims to repress Black youth and other marginalized communities.
  • Bring the conversation of Palestinian justice to your congregation. You can plug into a collaborative project designed to train congregations on how to implement a learning plan at Journeys Toward Justice.
  • Attend or host a Shabbat in solidarity with Angela Davis on February 15. Read from the Torah of Angela Davis and commit to reinvigorating a vibrant spirit of Black and Jewish solidarity. Share your event with #ShabbatWithAngelaDavis and favorite quotes with #TorahOfAngelaDavis.
  • Host a watch party to honor Dr. Davis on February 16! The event to honor her will be streamed live by the Birmingham Committee for Truth and Reconciliation.
  • Print out and share this beautiful “Palestine is a Racial Justice Issue” flyer at any events that you host.
  • Show your solidarity on social media by downloading and sharing the graphics below. Sample language that you could use: #IStandWithAngelaDavis because she stands for Black liberation, Palestinian rights, and freedom, justice, and equality for all.


October 8, 2016
Indigenous People’s Day & Film: The Eagle & the Condor

 

Monday, October 8:
First Unitarian Society
900 University Bay Drive
Madison

Schedule
5:30 pm – Community Potluck
6:30 pm – Drumming and welcoming by Indigenous Leaders
7:00 pm – Showing of The Eagle and The Condor – From Standing Rock with Love
8:00 pm – Panel/Community Discussion about the importance of supporting “Water Protectors”

Free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted to benefit the Coalition to Save the Menominee River.

Background from Madison Alder Rebecca Kemble:

“In October 2016, I traveled to Standing Rock to deliver the City of Madison resolution, ‘Expressing Solidarity with Indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline,’ to the Standing Rock nation through its Chairman, David Archambault. The morning after my arrival was Indigenous Peoples’ Day and I attended a ceremony based on the Eagle and Condor prophecy that was held on a piece of land that had been excavated in preparation for installation of the pipeline. While serving as a Legal Observer, I was arrested along with 26 other people and charged with engaging in a riot, criminal trespass, destruction of evidence, and resisting arrest.

“Over the course of that fall and winter, more than 800 people would be arrested and charged with crimes for non-violently defending the Missouri River from the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Extreme levels of violence were used by Morton County and the State of North Dakota on behalf of DAPL owners to eventually demolish the action camps in February 2017 and disperse the historically unprecedented gathering of Indigenous people from all across the planet.

“The Eagle and The Condor is a beautiful film made by Mohawk filmmaker, Kahsto’sera’a Paulette Moore, that focuses on the events of that day as a way to explore the juxtaposition of the extreme violence and history of violence with the beauty of ceremonies and the people who still remember and practice them. Helping produce the film has been an integral part of my own healing from the events that I experienced and witnessed. I hope it will bring viewers a deeper understanding of and respect for the challenges Indigenous peoples face to maintain and practice their cultures under the pressures of centuries of colonization and extreme resource extraction on their homelands.”

MRSCP is a co-sponsor of this event. The Eagle and The Condor will premiere on Indigenous People’s Day on Free Speech TV and in communities across North America and Europe.

July 26, 2018
Palestine and Us: Grassroots Mobilization with Rev. Graylan Hagler

ONLINE from The Palestine Center
Washington, DC
12 noon – 1 pm Central

Pastor and activist Rev. Graylan Hagler will highlight the intersections between the Palestinian cause and other contemporary social movements. His work has focused on Black liberation, economic justice, community organizing, and mobilizing faith communities.

Watch the event live online.

Biography of Speaker
Rev. Graylan Hagler, an African-American pastor and activist, was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Hagler received a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion from Oberlin College, Ohio, in 1976. Rev. Hagler is presently the Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C., and the Immediate Past National President of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice (MRSEJ). Rev. Hagler is a long-time social justice advocate and active in the Palestine solidarity movement. He recently returned from an all-Black delegation trip to Palestine consisting of Hip Hop and Spoken Word artists as well as an activist in the labor movement, and academic on Black Liberation and a survivor of the Rwandan genocide.