May 26, 2004
Brian Benford Alderperson
12th District City of Madison
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Madison, WI 53704-2372
Dear Alderman Benford:
I writing you as a constituent to express my strong support for the proposed resolution to create a sister city relationship between Madison and Rafah, a municipality of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip. I am confident that this initiative will improve America’s position in the Middle East, and help advance both peace and justice in this troubled region.
I am distressed that so many Madisonians whose views I generally respect think that this initiative is motivated by an animus towards Israel and Judaism. I assure you that if this were the case, I would not support it. It is because I am convinced that people-to-people diplomacy will ultimately be the best guarantor of Israel’s future that I am advocating this sister city relationship.
I closing I want to note that, during my recent service as an Army Reservist in Afghanistan, I had many opportunities to meet with local nationals. Many expressed appreciation of America’s presence and its ouster of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. However, they also perceived our policy toward Israel and the occupied territories as flawed and biased against Palestinians. This is not merely because, as Moslems, Afghans are antagonistic toward any non-Islamic occupier of the Dome of the Rock and other sites sacred to Islam in the occupied territories. It is because Afghans have known colonial oppression first hand, at the hands of the British and the Soviets. Therefore, it is natural for them to feel affinity for other peoples they recognize as victims of colonial oppression, including the Palestinian people. I suggest that this is a perception that is widely felt throughout the developing world among many peoples, Moslem and nonMoslem alike. All too often it is allied with a perception of America as a rich nation interested only in their countries as sources of cheap raw materials and labor.
Supporting a sister city relationship with Rafah will go far to dispel these attitudes. In addition, it will confirm Madison’s roll as a progressive community, dedicated to putting a human face on world events, and to reacting with compassion.