- Michael Mylrea, "Madison Rejects Proposal to Make Rafah Sister City," Jerusalem Post, July 21, 2004.
The Madison City Council narrowly rejected on Tuesday a proposal to establish a sister-city arrangement with Rafah in the Gaza Strip, after a heated debate that divided residents of the predominantly liberal Wisconsin college town.
The nonpartisan council voted 9-8 for the plan, but that fell short of the 11 votes needed to pass.
Proponents of the proposal, who hoped to create a cultural bridge and provide relief to Rafah, squared off against those who argued that it was an anti-Israeli initiative that could send money to support terrorism.
The vote was scheduled for July 6, but was delayed due to opposition by Madison’s 5,000 Jewish residents and others.
"For us, Rafah represented bad public policy," said Steven Morrison, executive director of the Madison Jewish Community Council. "Due to the high number of terrorists in Rafah, there’s a good chance our donations could have wound up supporting terror."
According to Barb Olson, a member of the Madison-Rafah sister-city project, which proposed the arrangement, "We know where the money goes, and document it. To say any of it could go to terror is silly."
A day before the vote, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz vowed to veto the proposal. "I don’t think the city council and I should be making a statement on Middle Eastern policies," he said.
Rafah Deputy Mayor Ahmed Sha’at said, "I believe the mayor was pressured by the Jewish lobby and some of the 5,000 members of Madison’s Jewish community."
Gerald Steinberg, editor of NGO Monitor, an on-line analysis of human rights NGOs involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict, said the council’s vote suggests a shift in Madison’s policy towards Israel.
"Because of Madison’s radicalism, and the visibility of this debate, the outcome could reflect a fundamental change in the general acceptability of anti-Israeli politics on US campuses, particularly with respect to the impact of Palestinian NGOs," he said.
Madison has a $10,000 budget for its sister-city program, which allows it to share humanitarian and cultural exchanges with other cities. It already has nine sister cities, including ones in Cuba, Vietnam, El Salvador, Lithuania, and Italy. On Tuesday, the council easily passed a sister-city relationship with Cuzco, Peru.
- Special Edition: 04 July 2004 Al Mezan (Madison/Rafah "Sister City" Proposal)
Summary: The Madison, Wisconsin city council is debating a proposal to "adopt" the Palestinian city of Rafah in Gaza. If approved, the Al Mezan Palestinian NGO would represent Rafah in this process. The following report provides information and analysis on Al Mezan and its activities.
Date: July 4, 2004
- NGO Monitor Info-File Summary on Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
- Joel Fishman, "Madison, Wisconsin, Etats-Unis : un champ de bataille pour la légitimité d’Israël ," Objectif Information, July 20, 2004.
- Judith Davidoff, "Rafah Debate Anguished, Bruising Council Delays Sister City Vote After Panel’s OK," Capital Times, July 7, 2004.
- NGO Monitor report cited in Madison, WI decision on Al Mezan (July 8 2004) "The new draft takes out all references to Al Mezan, a human rights organization that sister city members have used to establish contacts in Rafah but which the Madison Jewish Community Council says has engaged in anti-Semitic activities." This decision was based on the NGO Monitor reports and correspondence on Al Mezan.
- Leon Cohen, "Madison Debates Linkage to Rafah, with Madison Jews Take Both Sides," Madison Jewish Chronicle, June 9, 2004.