The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Madison Jewish Community Council Opposition

Madison Jewish Community Council
[on official letterhead]

April 20, 2004

Mayor David J. Cieslewicz
Members of the Common Council
City County Building
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Madison, WI 53703-3345

Dear Mayor Cieslewicz and Alders:

A Common Council resolution, submitted March 24, 2004, authorizes the Mayor to “enter into an agreement with the City of Rafah in the Gaza Strip to establish a sister city relationship with the City of Madison.”

The Madison Jewish Community Council believes sister city relationships are worthy endeavors. However, we oppose this resolution. The proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled mechanism to bash the State of Israel. That it is also about anti-Semitism only makes it more offensive. Despite the lofty language of the resolution under consideration by the Common Council, this specific proposal fails on its very face for several reasons.

The resolution states, the “Mayor and Chair of the Rafah Municipal Council, Mr. Said Zouroub, along with many other elements of the Rafah community coordinated and represented by the highly respected human rights NGO Al Mezan of Rafah, have expressed a desire to establish a sister city relationship with the City of Madison.”

• That the Mayor and Chair of the Rafah Municipal Council, Mr. Said Zouroub, stands accused (which he has never publicly denied) of membership in Hamas, an organization named by the United States and recognized worldwide as a terrorist group, ought to be reason enough for the Common Council to reject this resolution.

• The resolution says the Municipal Government in Rafah “reflects a democratic vision that corresponds to the values of Madison’s political leadership. However, Rafah’s municipal government is not democratically elected and is not a local participatory government. Rafah is at the very heart of Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure. It is widely acknowledged that the weapons used by Hamas to engage in their unrelenting terrorist activities come from Rafah’s tunnels. In total, approximately eighty weapons-smuggling tunnels in and around Rafah have been found.

• Rafah is the community in which thousands flocked to the streets to rejoice at the death and destruction of Americans on September 11.

• It is not a city which the City of Madison should include among those with which it shares common goals or which it would want to call “sister.” For these reasons alone, the resolution should be rejected.

The Al Mezan Center, as detailed in the resolution, did receive a grant from the Ford Foundation, for “community based advocacy work on economic, social and cultural rights in Gaza.”

• The reality, however, is that Al Mezan was a part of the NGO block at the 2001 United Nations Conference Against Racism in Durban which descended into gutter antiSemitism. The language of the Durban conference resolutions promoted by those NGOs denied or diminished the Holocaust and espoused an openly anti-Semitic stance. The very NGO with which Al Mezan joined in Durban, the Palestinian Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (which operates under the acronym LAW), was identified by U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based group that monitors the world body, as “instrumental in creating the anti-Semitic focus at Durban.”

• Pursuant to Executive Order 13224, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) informed U.S. tax-exempt organizations that if they partnered with Palestinian NGO’s, those NGO’s would be required to sign a Certification Regarding Terrorist Financing. This statement vows that no funds ever have been given or ever will be given to terrorist groups. Al Mezan not only refused to abide by Executive Order 13224, they called for its boycott.

• Al Mezan is on-record in Durban denying the Holocaust, proposing anti-Semitic resolutions, and participating in demonstrations carrying the most vile of placards. That the City of Madison would propose to align itself with such a group is unworthy of our great city.

The resolution states, “The Madison committee and Al Mezan are entirely committed to the development of deeper understanding between the two communities and the accomplishment of humanitarian betterment; are non-political and non-partisan, endorsing no political movements or formulae; and are committed to non-violence.”

• The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project made its goals totally clear with the words, “The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is one attempt to bring the crimes of the Israeli regime against the people of Palestine into the spotlight.” (The Capital Times, May 17, 2003.) That column used such language about Israel and its leaders as “racist” and labeling it policies as “ethnic cleansing.”

Sister city relationships are not meant to establish and enhance cultural exchanges with anti-Semites and terrorists.

Just two days ago, The Madison Jewish Community Council received an invitation from the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project to engage in a dialogue. Because we are, indeed, committed to the belief that person-person ties are the strongest in seeking to work for peace and better understanding of all cultures, we have accepted this invitation. The resolution before the Common Council, however, is not about seeking peace or understanding through dialogue; it is just the opposite.

We respectfully request and strongly encourage you to reject this resolution. Thank you for your consideration.


Steven H. Morrison
Executive Director