May 26, 2004
Office of the Mayor
Mayor David J. Cieslewicz
Room 403 210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Madison, WI 53704
Dear Mayor Cieslewicz:
I am writing you as a concerned citizen to express my support for the current initiative to recognize a sister city relationship between Madison and Rafah, a principality of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip. I am confident that the initiation of cultural and economic exchange between our two municipalities will be a form of citizen diplomacy that will go far in improving our country’s standing in the Mideast and in Moslem countries. It will, I am certain, be the best guarantee of Israel’s security, since it is an initiative to achieve peace through increased mutual understanding.
I understand that you have expressed hesitation about this initiative, in part because of your own lack of expertise in Mideast history and current affairs. I can understand this, and for this reason I will include by reference a recent letter to the President Bush from fifty-three retired US diplomats, most of whom had served in the Middle East. As cited in the May 5, 2004 Guardian, LTD, the letter condemns what it calls the President’s “unqualified support” of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policies in the occupied territories. It laments that this endorsement of “Sharon’s unilateral plan [is] costing our country its credibility, prestige and friends.” It further urges President Bush to “support negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, with the United States serving as a truly honest broker.”
This letter was drafted by Andrew Killgore, the former US ambassador to Qatar. Its signatories include, among others, former ambassadors to Syria, Egypt, India and Saudi Arabia, as well as the former chief inspector of the US Information Agency. Clearly, in the eyes of those who have invested the equivalent several lifetimes in this volatile region of the world, it is time for a change in America’s policies toward Israel and Palestine. Clearly, the Bush Administration lacks the vision to lead America towards such a change. And where vision fails, the people perish.
Unless, that is, the concerned citizens in progressive communities such as Madison take the lead in peopleto-people diplomacy. If that occurs, it just might be that where the people have led, the leaders will follow.