The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Coulee Region Coalition for Palestinian Rights, Wisconsin

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Bob Goonin, CRCPR, October 8, 2023

Many of you are aware of the events unfolding in Palestine/Israel. To understand why these events are taking place we need to know some history and context.

Our immediate fear is that Israel will shortly launch an invasion of Gaza that will result in a civilian bloodbath, including children, as it hunts for Hamas militants. Israeli President Netanyahu perversely said that Israel will turn Gaza into ‘deserted island’ and urged Palestinians to get out now. But they cannot – because Israel imposed a total military blockade of Gaza in 2007. Nothing goes in and nothing comes out without their permission. Gaza is an open-air prison, and defenseless Palestinians are trapped.

This bombing campaign, already underway, and the invasion to follow will undoubtedly surpass the death toll of the bombing in 2021 that killed 66 children.

As a result of the blockade the economy collapsed with widespread poverty, very high youth unemployment, contaminated water, limited electricity, people dying of medical conditions awaiting a travel permit and dependency on international humanitarian aid.

Most Palestinians living in Gaza are the refugees and their descendants from the violent ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1947-48 and the refugees from territory Israel captured in the 1967 war.

As intended, the violent ethnic cleansing, including massacres of innocent civilians, produced a demographic majority Jewish population in Israel. A core demand of Palestinian society has been the right of return for these refugees and their descendants – which is an internationally recognized right in the Geneva Convention. Israel has refused to comply.


Since its beginning, Israel has been a settler colonial state, stealing land from the indigenous Palestinian people, and settling that land with Israeli citizens and Jews immigrating from other countries. There are over 650,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

For 75 years, the Israeli government has maintained a military occupation over Palestinians, which many international non-profits, including Amnesty International, have characterized as ‘apartheid’. The current and former (Desmond Tutu) archbishops of the Anglican Church in South Africa agree. These oppressive policies have only worsened when the racist, right-wing government came to power.

The Israeli strategy to ethnically cleanse Palestinians off their land has systematically continued since 1947-48, only at a slower pace.

Palestinians in the urban centers have been displaced from homes that their family has lived in for generations based on trumped up legal rulings or the seizure of property on military and security grounds. These homes are either demolished, or Israel encourages Jew from abroad to come and live in them.

The right-wing Israeli state has given the green light to the more than 800 violent settler attacks on defenseless Palestinian villages this year. Settlers have burned property, destroyed ancient olive trees of cultural and economic importance, stolen land, killed livestock and physically harmed Palestinian farmers and villagers.

Some Palestinian villages have been abandoned as people fled the settler violence – leaving land that they and their families had farmed for generations. Israeli soldiers have either protected the settlers or actively assisted them. These pogroms are acts of state supported terrorism.

During the recent Jewish holidays Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque under the protection of the Israeli police. Following calls by ultranationalist Jewish groups thousands more carried out provocative tours of the mosque, desecrating one of the holiest of Muslim sites.

Provocative flag waving and openly racist Israeli Jewish marches through Palestinian neighborhoods have been intensifying. These marches have called for ‘death to Arabs’, triggering vandalism and violence against the Palestinians living there.

Palestinian movement between villagers and farms, students and schools, workers and their jobs, families from each other and more are all subject to checkpoints, shifting road closures, personal questioning and humiliating physical searches.

Prior to this week Israeli security forces had already killed a record number of Palestinians (244). Over 5,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently being held in Israeli jails, including 1,200 administrative detainees who have not been charged.

Reporters covering lethal Israeli military operations are frequently targeted, including the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, an internationally respected Palestinian-American, by an Israeli sniper. This sniper killing was verified by numerous western news organizations, but no Israeli soldiers or military commanders were held accountable.

Palestinian children are routinely dragged at gunpoint from their beds in pre-dawn raids by Israeli soldiers, held in detention in Israeli military prisons with no family members or attorneys present, sometimes abused and always scared until they confess – often for nothing more than throwing rocks at Israeli tanks.

When the level of oppression and violence becomes intolerable, when young people lose hope for a stable, safe and productive future, there will be resistance, and resistance may take many forms, both non-violent and violent.

Palestinian civil society has called for non-violent, international boycotts, sanctions, and divestment to pressure Israel to end the occupation, provide equal rights for Palestinians and comply with the right of return.

Work continues to push the US to end its unconditional 3.8 billion-dollar annual military aid to Israel and to cut off private funding of the Israeli military and settlers.

In addition to Israel, we believe that primary responsibility for the violence taking place in Palestine are Israel’s allies, led by the US, that are complicit in Israel’s systematic and widespread forms of oppression.

This is consistent with the position of three Palestinian human rights organizations – Al-Haq (based in the West Bank), Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. The latter two are based in Gaza which, barring international intervention, will soon be subjected by Israel to a horrific and criminal collective punishment.






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