2314 Rowley Avenue Madison, WI 53726
Mayor David Cieslewiecz
Members of the Common Council
City County Building
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Madison, WI 53703-3345
Dear Mayor Dave and Alders,
You will remember that I earlier wrote you a letter formally endorsing the idea of the Madison-Rafah Sister City program. This is a personal follow-up to say I still believe it is a helpful and positive program, and to respond to arguments on the other side of the issue.
I have before me a copy of the letter from Steven Morrison of the Madison Jewish Community Council. There is abundant evidence that the charges made here against Rafah and the Mezan Center are not true, and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project has a compelling point-by-point refutation of the charges made, available to you if you desire it and have not seen it.
It is, however, in points made about the motivations of the Madison group that I most sharply take issue with him. For instance, his charge that we are not about seeking peace or understanding through dialogue, but are working with anti-Semites and terrorists on a proposal “that is nothing more than a thinly veiled proposal to bash the State of Israel.”
We do indeed call attention to the plight of the Palestinian people under occupation. I have always done so in the context of saying that we stand against anti-Semitism, and recognize the need of the Jewish people for a safe refuge in the world. To disagree with some policies of the administration of Israel is not to bash Israel, as witness the fact that when I do so publicly, I do it including the words of Jewish leaders in the United States, Israel, and around the world that call Israel to new approaches that are more faithful to the ancient Hebrew commitments to justice, righteousness and compassion, and are accordingly more hopeful for the security and future of the Israeli people.
I would do nothing to keep the arguments of Steve Morrison from being heard. The problem rather is that he wants to prevent us from presenting our views. I have been on a committee with him working on a program on the Middle East. I learned that while his words were about balance, his approach was in fact to try to insure that all the speakers express a view supportive of Israeli policies, and to give him veto power to use against those on the other side of the issue. He even made a personal approach to the President of MATC to try to prevent the appearance of a pro-Palestinian speaker who came in spite of this veto attempt, and who was very reasonable and balanced in his call for peace. I cite my experience with that event to note a pattern of freely using charges of anti-Semitism and terrorism to stifle dialogue, which appears to be repeated in this instance.
If Steve Morrison and the Madison Jewish Community Council seek balance and dialogue rather than suppression of views with which they disagree, they could propose a sister city relationship with an Israeli city of their choice, to complement the one with Rafah. Let both programs be out in the open, and talked about, with the desire to learn the truth from both. This would be highly preferable to an approach that squashes either side because of the objections or fears of the other. It would also continue Madison’s role as a leader in dealing contructively with difficult issues in the world.
Please do not let the opponents of this peace-seeking proposal politicize it in this way.
Member of the Advisory Committee of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project
Cc: Bill Lueders, Isthmus