The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Kathy Walsh in support of the Sister City

May 3, 2004

Dear Isthmus editor,

The following open letter to Mayor Dave is in response to his comment on the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project: “at the end of the day, who really cares, etc. . . ”
Dear Dave,
I care. I care deeply about my family, the people of Madison, and the people of the world. As a citizen and resident of Madison I care about the inequalities, injustices and just plain bad luck that affect people around me. That is why I sometimes buy meals for homeless people, give to local charities, tutor math (math is something I love and am very comfortable doing) and speak out when friends or even people I don’t know are treated unjustly (speaking out is something that is very difficult for me) and am training to become an EMT. As a citizen of Madison I am also a world citizen and I  care deeply about people everywhere else in the world. I believe that Madison is a citizen-city of the world. Like it or not, Madison is affected by events all over the world, and although it is only a small part of the world, Madison does effect people elsewhere in the world for better or for worse, through action or inaction. Madison does have a proud history of supporting human rights of world citizens, especially those of in countries where the people are adversely affected by US policy that is based on the percieved “security” and “economic interests” of the US,  through individuals, groups, and city-sponsored programs such as the various sister-city projects. Madison has active city-sponsored sister-city relations with cities in East Timor, El Salvador, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Dane county has a sister relationship with Colombia. A group from Edgewood College is active in protesting the School of the Americas, now the Western Hemisphere Institute for ??, A US military sponsored school that trains government sponsored terrorists from Central and South America.

However, even in Madison, it seems to be PC to treat Palestinians as undeserving of the basic human rights spelled out by the   ??  Geneva Convention. Many residents of Madison, including friends of mine, believe that the Palestinians are suffering unjustly, but are unwilling to publically support human rights for Palestinians for fear of offending their Jewish friends. To me, this is totally unacceptable and only makes sense if they view Palestinians as something less human than othern people or that the comfort of themselves and their friends is more important than the basic human rights of a whole people. I and many other Madisonians, including many Jews, find this appalling. Yes, this issue can be divisive and uncomfortable. My friends and I working on this project have been called anti-semites and much worse.But I believe that refusing to discuss this tropic does nothing to heal the divisions in Madison and contributes to the injustices suffered by the Palestinians in the guise of security for Israel and the US. (Neither Israel or the Palestinians will ever be truly secure until the issues of human rights for all are adequately solved.)

The goals of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project are to promote people to people contact and understanding between the residents of the two areas, to educate the people of Madison about the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Rafah and Palestine, to show the people of Madison that Palestinians are full-fledged human beings fully deserving of the same basic human rights and protections under international law as all other peoples, and showing the people of Rafah that people in Madison do care about their plight. We are not trying to solve or to propose a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. In fact, we do not agree among ourselves what either the ideal or most practical solution is. In any event, the eventual solution must be reached by the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. Outsiders can only really help through education and by not allowing the power discrepency between the two sides to impose an unjust solution. MRSCP can help with education and by promoting dialogue. Yes, some of this is political, but the world operates politically.

MRSCP hopes to promote dialogue, not divisivenss, in Madison. Our opponents have chosen to make our project divisive. But even if the initial discussions are divisive, we hope that true dialogue will raise wareness of the real needs to recognize and support human rights in Palestine as we do in less controversial regions. Silence on these issues , which seems to be the goal of the Madison Jewish Community Council and other opponents of this project will only allow the current situation to continue to fester while Madison stagnates in its perceived comfort. We hope our project will make Madison a better informed and caring city-citizen of the world.

At one of the human rights events I have attended in the last two years one of the speakers stated that solutions to human rights problems may not be comfortable, and we should not insist that they be comfortable. What is important is that we strive solutions that are as just as possible. Silence and inaction can be comfortable, but they will not bring about peace or justice.

Kathy Walsh