Jeff Blum, a member of the Palo Alto Human Relations Commission (HRC), wrote a column in the Weekly July 11, inviting readers to attend to the next evening's commission meeting because of the importance of the topics to be discussed.
One of the topics was the recent heated debate in the school district about Mandarin immersion.
Blum also wrote that the commission would discuss "charges that the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center promoted anti-Semitic believers and beliefs."
Blum has never specified, then or now, who made those charges.
The Peace Center has long been a critic of the Israeli government's policies on dealing with Palestinians.
It's fair game to rip into the Peace Center for its criticism of the political actions of the Israeli government. That's what political debate is about.
But to accuse someone of being anti-Semitic for criticizing Israel is far different.
Paul George, the longtime director of the Peace Center, was furious when he read Blum's column.
Three months later, despite a private meeting brokered by Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto, the matter is far from over, from George's perspective.
On the day of the commission meeting, George wrote a protest letter to the group.
"By what authority does the HRC hold hearings impinging upon our protected rights to engage in political speech?" he asked.
Blum's report of allegations of anti-Semitism at the Peace Center weren't actually discussed at the commission's July 12 meeting. By then, the controversy had blown up and the commission was advised by the city attorney to avoid any specifics.
The one person who spoke to the issue at the July 12 was Holly Ullman, a member of the local Jewish Relations Council. She asked the commission to take the item off the agenda.
"It is the wrong forum to make rules for political discourse," she said.
LaDoris Cordell, the City Council's liaison to the commission, when informed of Blum's bringing up anti-Semitism, responded that the commission was supposed to excel in human relations.
"The harm that has been done to the Peace Center can't be revoked," Henry Organ, a Peace Center board member, said.
"These kinds of attacks are intended to intimidate us and keep our opinions to ourselves, and that's not what we're about," George said. "A wrong has been done and it has never been undone."
"The HRC should have never even touched on this," he added.
Kishimoto's private meeting with Blum, George and others in the aftermath of the July 12 meeting didn't resolve anything.
The one thing agreed to was that commission Chair Shauna Wilson Mora would write an op-ed piece in the Weekly, which she did. Mora apologized for failing to invite George to the July 12 meeting -- the commission had scheduled a meeting to talk about the Peace Center without ever inviting the Peace Center.
Mora's apology was heartfelt and accepted by George, but it didn't settle matters.
Blum is unrepentant about what happened, including about what he wrote. He still won't say who accused the Peace Center of being anti-Semitic. "People did mention to me that the center gave the impression of being anti-Semitic," he said.
"I'm amazed he's continuing to pursue this," Blum said of George. "I felt the matter was resolved. I bit my tongue and took it on the chin" at the meeting with the mayor.
"Six years from now, someone will do a Google search and come up with Jeff's article," George explained. "I'm also concerned about the damage it might have done to the HRC. They play an important role and I'm glad we have one in Palo Alto."
Blum's accusation that the Peace Center is anti-Semitic harmed not only the Peace Center but also the commission in its role as the thoughtful arbitrator of disputes between people in the community.