Nov 16, 2023 - News

Israeli conference in Denver draws scrutiny from pro-Palestinian advocates

People rally in support of Israel outside the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver. Photo: Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images

A conference focused on Israel taking place in Denver later this month has turned the city into a fresh battleground for opposing sides in the Israel-Hamas war.

Driving the news: The Global Conference for Israel is scheduled to begin Nov. 30 at the Colorado Convention Center.

  • Featured speakers include Gov. Jared Polis, current Israeli United Nations ambassador Gilad Erdan, and former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren.

Why it matters: Opposition to the event is the latest example of tension brewing locally from an international conflict.

Of note: The conference was planned before the war began, organizers tell us, and is part of an annual series hosted by the Jewish National Fund-USA, a nonprofit supporting Israel. Last year's gathering took place in Boston.

Details: The multi-day event will focus on discussing current projects in Israel that are building solutions to issues like water scarcity and food insecurity, Sam Goldberg, Jewish National Fund-USA Mountain States Board President, tells us.

  • Goldberg says the nonprofit works to support all residents of Israel, including Arab residents living inside the country.

Yes, but: The conference is drawing opposition from the Colorado Palestine Coalition, which is campaigning to shut it down, saying the organizers are playing a role in displacing Palestinians.

  • The coalition says it plans to protest during the event, and its members have called on Polis to cancel his appearance.
  • A spokesperson for Polis declined to comment on his scheduled appearance.

What they're saying: Goldberg said there are groups seeking "to negate our achievements and contributions," but the nonprofit is "committed to building and contributing and doing good things that not only help Israel but help America and the entire world."

State of play: He tells us safety is the top priority for the "thousands" of people attending the event, saying organizers are working with law enforcement and private security firms.

  • Denver police confirmed they're working with the organizers, but didn't provide further details.

Between the lines: The Jewish National Fund-USA is a separate entity from the Jewish National Fund, which was founded in 1901 and owns land in Israel.

  • The Colorado Palestine Coalition references the land-owning JNF in materials explaining their opposition.
  • Jewish National Fund-USA spokesperson Stefan Oberman tells us the event is entirely organized by the nonprofit, which is raising money for Israelis impacted by the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack.

What's next: The Colorado Palestine Coalition is planning a march on Sunday outside the Capitol.

Go deeper: Prominent Colorado lawmaker calls Israel war "genocide"


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