A SYDNEY council`s decision to form a sister city relationship with Bethlehem has outraged members of the Jewish community, who say the move is akin to supporting terrorism.
Marrickville Council, in Sydney`s inner west, has had an in-principle agreement since 2001 with the Palestinian city believed by some Christian scholars to have been the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
The agreement is due to be formally ratified at a council meeting next Tuesday.
Councillor Sam Iskandar said the city had been chosen as a symbol of love, peace and harmony, but the Jewish community says it is anything but.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said Bethlehem Council was controlled by members of the terrorist organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which support the killing of Jews.
A delegation from Bethlehem Council is due to visit Sydney in late August to sign the agreement and hold discussions with Marrickville Council.
Mr Alhadeff claimed this could give a platform for Hamas members.
"A Bethlehem delegation could include Hamas members," he said.
"This means an international guest could address a public meeting hosted by this council and call for the destruction of `Israel` and death to the Jews (Zionists)."
He said the council should choose a politically neutral middle-eastern city to foster relations with.
Unaware of Bethlehem’s significance to world Christians, Mr Alhadeff said: "If councils like Marrickville wanted to get involved and promote peace and reconciliation why not choose an Arab-`Israeli` town, so it`s not a partisan position?".
But Mr Iskandar, who chairs the council`s community services committee, said the proposal for Bethlehem to be a sister city had come from residents and had been unanimously passed.
"It was chosen because it was the city which symbolised love and peace and harmony," he said.
"We look at this relationship between Marrickville and Bethlehem to be a very good relationship between the two communities, and we want to send a message that people can work with people and they can have good relations ... and that is the spirit of the sister city movement."
Mr Iskandar said the council would (not) give any funds to Bethlehem Council as part of the arrangement.