BOULDER - The Boulder City Council voted 7-2 Monday night to defeat a controversial proposal to forge a "sister city" relationship between Boulder and the Palestinian city of Nablus on the West Bank.
During more than four hours of emotional debate, speakers invoked the long and violent conflict between the people of Palestine and Israel.
Some people cited a 2001 incident, when a university chapter of the militant Palestinian group Hamas built an art exhibit at An-Najah University in Nablus recreating the scene of a deadly suicide bombing attack at a Jerusalem pizza shop.
Another person talked about oppression of women in the city.
Some supporters of the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project wept during the meeting. The group told the council it wanted to enhance understanding of the area and develop yoga and rock climbing opportunities for Nablus.
City council members said they had received about 400 emails on the issue, with a slight majority opposing the sister city alliance.
"I think no matter what we decide tonight, it will be a political decision. There's no way around that," said City Councilman Tim Plass.
"I've been convinced that what this Nablus sister city group is doing is very much in the nature of peace and promoting good will," said Boulder Mayor pro tem Lisa Morzel.
Nablus is located about 30 miles north of Jerusalem.
The Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project says they've already collected 1,000 signatures on a petition in favor of the endeavor in Nablus. That petition says Nablus already has eight sister city connections and has "benefited greatly from these relationships."
Nablus would be Boulder's eighth sister city.
"We also want to assure you that this cooperation is about friendship and people-to-people diplomacy and it is far away from politics," the petition also says.
Despite that disclaimer, the proposal is controversial. Nearly 80 people signed up to express their opinions during a public comment session at the City Council meeting on Monday evening.
Opponents say Nablus would be an inappropriate sister-city partner because of the human rights situation in the Palestinian Authority.