The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Israeli soldiers torching homes in Gaza city. (Younis Tirawi | يونس)
  • Dr. Ammar Ghanem and Nurse Monica Johnston in Gaza

  • After a ceasefire resolution, the City of Madison played host to some of Israel’s largest weapons suppliers


    A photo shows a hand holding up a small toy missile, consisting of blue foam fins and a white plastic cylindrical body, with the Northrop Grumman logo printed on it. In the background, cars can be seen moving through a crosswalk on East Wilson Street in downtown Madison.
    An attendee of the recent NSMMS-CRASTE conference at Monona Terrace holds up a toy missile, distributed as a promotional item for defense contractor Northrop Grumman. Photo courtesy of Josh Jenkins.

    A recent defense-industry conference at Monona Terrace highlights the gap between local declarations and local action.

    On June 24, the National Space & Missile Materials Symposium (NSMMS) and Commercial and Government Responsive Access to Space Technology Exchange (CRASTE) kicked off a joint conference on missile and space technology at Madison’s Monona Terrace. While the event’s branding cloaked it in images of astronauts and NASA spacecraft, it was very much a conference for defense contractors. Its sponsors included companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman—each of which provide Israel’s military with missiles, bombs, and fighter jets.    

    The five-day conference, at a City of Madison-owned venue, comes after months of debate amongst Madison’s elected officials over resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Most recently, the Madison Common Council failed to enact a resolution in support of the UW-Madison student encampment after Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin authorized a multi-agency squad of riot police to carry out a violent crackdown. In December, however, the Common Council voted unanimously to call for an immediate ceasefire, and for “urgent political action to both de-escalate the crisis and to prioritize truth, reconciliation, restitution, and the building of a future for the Palestinian and Israeli people.” 

    Despite this ceasefire resolution, Monona Terrace—technically a city agency, with an operating budget of $14,701,064 for 2024—played host to weapons manufacturers largely responsible for the destruction of 70 percent of homes in Gaza and the deaths of over 35,000 people, mostly civilians.  


  • Za’atar from Palestine on Sale!

    With a “best by” date of July 2024 Playgrounds for Palestine Za’atar in 100 gm (small) boxes has been reduced from $8.00  to $5.00 each.

    Za’atar is a mix of dried, crushed thyme with roasted sesame, salt, sunflower oil, and other spices. It has been a delicious addition to any table since medieval times.

    Grown by Palestinian farmers in the West Bank and bought by Al’Ard (“the land) in Nablus, following organic and fair trade practices.

    AIDA is a private label of Playgrounds for Palestine. Playgrounds is currently donating 100% of its proceeds to Gaza aid.

    Go to Playgrounds for Palestine Madison to order for local pickup, or look for us at local events!


    an amendment blocks the State Department from citing the Gaza Health Ministry’s statistics
    The Gaza Ministry figures have been cited broadly, including by the U.S. and Israeli governments.
    The bodies of Palestinians killed during an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced people, at the Tel al-Sultan clinic in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on May 27, 2024. Photo: Ahmad Salem/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Prem Thakker, The Intercept, June 27 2024 

    THE HOUSE OF Representatives has voted to effectively conceal the death toll from Israel’s war on Gaza.

    On Thursday, lawmakers voted 269-144 on an amendment to prohibit the State Department from citing statistics from the Gaza Health Ministry. The measure is part of the annual State Department appropriations bill. It was led by Democratic Reps. Jared Moskowitz, Fla., and Josh Gottheimer, N.J., and Republican Reps. Joe Wilson, S.C.; Mike Lawler, N.Y.; and Carol Miller, W.V.

    In total, 62 Democrats joined 207 Republicans in supporting the amendment.


  • August 4, 2024: Lanterns for Peace Hiroshima & Nagasaki Commemoration

    1414 E. Johnson St or 402 N. Thornton Ave, John Wall Family Pavilion
    6:30 pm – Create lanterns
    7:30 pm – Program starts
    7:45 pm – Launch lanterns

    Join us for this family friendly event to commemorate the lives lost in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings 79 years ago and make sure that such nuclear attacks never again take place.

    We remember the past so that we can envision and work for a peaceful, just, and nuclear weapon-free future.

    ☮️ We need volunteers for set-up and take-down. Please drop us a line at if you can help.

  • Seen at the International Festival

  • Local Art Auction To Support Humanitarian Aid For Gaza


    8 O’CLOCK BUZZ & Nicholas Wootton, WORT, JUNE 24, 2024

    For the past 21 years, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project has sought to foster person-to-person relationships with residents of the southern Palestine city of Rafah. Previous humanitarian projects for the people of Rafah, including water purification systems, mental health resources, a playground, a children’s library, a house reconstruction, and more.

    Now, as the Israeli-Hamas war enters its tenth month, the need for humanitarian aid has never been greater.  The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project will host Art for Gaza 2024, a silent art auction, with all proceeds going to the Middle East Children’s Alliance.

    Some of the artwork for auction
    Cassandra Dixon

    Cassandra Dixon works as a carpenter in Madison, volunteers for the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and has made several aid trips to Palestine. Cassandra spoke with Monday Eight o’Clock Buzz host Brian Standing to talk about the art auction and about the how war in Gaza is affecting the civilian population.

    All photos courtesy Cassandra Dixon

  • July 2, 2024: Meet & Greet the Artists of the Silent Art Auction

    5:30 – 7 pm
    Java Cat Coffee House
    4221 Lien Road

    Thanks to the amazing generosity of the Java Cat owners there will be a meet & greet event with artists contributing to our Silent Art Auction. 

    Besides seeing the artwork attendees will have a chance to talk with some of the artists and learn more about the work of the Middle East Children’s Alliance in Gaza. Refreshments will be available.

  • June 30, 2024: Auction Artists on WORT


    5-6 pm, after the news

    Three of the artists contributing their works to our Silent Art Auction for Gaza relief will be interviewed on WORT Radio’s World View Program

    Tune in to 89.9 FM, listen live online, or archived afterwards to hear from artists Matthew Braunginn, Erika Rosales Garcia, and Baz Sundark.

  • Statement from Addameer on torture in Israeli prisons

    ADDAMEER Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, 26-06-2024

    Over the past decades, Israeli occupation authorities have systematically used torture against prisoners and detainees in their prisons from the very first moments of arrest. Hundreds of prisoners have died in Israeli jails over the years as a result of various forms of torture, without any accountability from relevant international bodies. Recently, with the outbreak of comprehensive aggression against the Palestinian people across all locations and the genocidal war that has spared no one, not even prisoners in prisons, the use of torture has intensified to the harshest and most brutal forms. This increase in torture, especially against detainees from Gaza who were arrested from schools, shelters, and hospitals after the ground invasion by the occupation forces, stems from Israel’s longstanding impunity from accountability.

    Since the beginning of the genocidal war against Palestinians, approximately 54 martyrs from all Palestinian provinces have died in Israeli occupation prisons due to torture, inhumane detention conditions, systematic abuse, and deliberate attacks. Among them, 36 were prisoners from Gaza and 18 were prisoners martyred in prisons under the Israeli Prison Service. It’s worth noting that the occupying state continues to withhold information about the martyr prisoners, as reports have revealed the deaths of dozens of martyrs inside camps and prisons without families knowing the fate of their loved ones or the names of those who have died in these camps. This underscores the scale of the humanitarian disaster faced by prisoners inside these prisons. The situation inside prisons and camps has become increasingly severe due to the punitive policies of the occupation authorities against prisoners and detainees. It is noteworthy that the number of detainees from Gaza and their information remains unknown until now, estimated to be in the thousands.


  • Java Cat Coffee to host Humanitarian Aid for Gaza Silent Art Auction

    By Omar Waheed, Madison365, Jun 27, 2024  

    Artwork from Java Cat Coffee’s Humanitarian Aid for Gaza Silent Art Auction (Photo by Omar Waheed)

    Java Cat Coffee’s Humanitarian Aid for Gaza Silent Art Auction will go live on Friday as the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) partners with artists for humanitarian aid in Gaza.

    MRSCP’s auction “Art For Humanity’s Sake: A Silent Art Auction for Gaza” will start on June 28 and go until July 8. The auction features 66 donated works from artists around the country with the intention of raising funds for humanitarian aid. The goal amount for the fundraising auction is $6,000 with the proceeds going to Middle East Children’s Alliance.

    “What is needed right now is a huge worldwide aid response to the situation in Gaza. And I hope, personally, that that will happen,” Cassandra Dixon, a member of MRSCP, told Madison365. “I hope that my country will be a part of that at some point. But in the meantime, I think that it falls to just regular people to try to make that happen.”

    Madison-Rafah Sister City Project was founded in 2003 seeking to build person-to-person relationships with Rafah, Palestine. It aims to increase awareness of ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and influence United States public policy. While it is not an official sister city recognized by Madison, it has been working to spread awareness on protests, policy, news and aid efforts.

    Palestinians receiving aid in Gaza have seen ongoing difficulties as Israel’s government has prevented deliveries from arriving. Aid via Rafah, on the border between Palestine and Egypt, has been building up due to continued military operations, the Washington Post reported.

    The art auction comes after garnering interest from a previous silent auction. Auctioning off art comes with the hope of bringing some tangibility to a “situation so unimaginable,” Dixon said.

    Artwork on display at Java Cat Coffee (below)

    “None of us really can imagine 2 million people facing starvation. We can’t imagine the devastation of all housing, all infrastructure, all education. It’s so hard to take that in, and yet we have to in order to respond,” Dixon said. “Art also requires imagination, and it requires putting yourself into a creation to appreciate it. It requires the person who created the art and the person who’s experiencing it, to have a partnership in a way.”

    Aid will go towards providing fresh produce like rice, shampoo, soap, sanitary pads, laundry detergent, toothbrushes, and toothpaste, along with helping prepare hot meals, clothing, blankets, clean water, and beginning installation of solar-powered water desalination and purification units.

    Bidding on artwork is open June 28 through July 8. An in-person showing of auctioned goods will be held at Java Cat Coffee Shop, 4221 Lien Rd., on Tuesday, July 2, 5:30-7 p.m.

  • Monona Terrace Convention faces Palestine protesters

    By: Chloe Morrissey, 27 News, Jun 26, 2024

    Protesters took to the Monona Terrace to protest the National Space & Missle Materials Symposium (NSMMS), claiming the City of Madison should not host an event like that. The event is a joint symposium with Commercial and Government Responsive Access (CRASTE).

    MADISON (WKOW) — Protesters took to the Monona Terrace to protest the National Space & Missile Materials Symposium (NSMMS), claiming the City of Madison should not host an event like that.

    The event is a joint symposium with Commercial and Government Responsive Access (CRASTE).

    Weapons and arms manufacturing companies like Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and Northrop Grumman attended the convention. Protesters claim that the companies profit off of the war in Gaza. 

    Phil Trachtenberg is a member of World Beyond War and Jewish Voice for Peace, some of the many groups present at Wednesday night’s protest.

    “These companies, especially Boeing Lockheed and Northrop Grumman, are actively and openly having a conference where they’re talking about weapons and the bombs that we can see right now on our phones being dropped in Gaza,” Trachtenberg said. “Any company that profits off of war like this and off of death should not be allowed here, and that’s what we’re here to say.”

    Protesters said that The City has supported Palestine in the past. In December of 2023, the Common Council passed a ceasefire resolution.

    Kristen Durst, Community and Public Relations Manager for the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center told 27 News:

    “Monona Terrace hosts over 500 events each year. Event space is rentable to any person, business, or organization that can fulfill the terms of our lease. The content at events and views and opinions of clients who rent space at Monona Terrace is their own.” 

    In another statement, City of Madison Spokesperson Dylan Brogan added: 

    “The City has a long history of supporting the right to peacefully protest. This situation is no different.”

     The convention is set to wrap up on Thursday.

  • June 25, 2024: Fitchburg Gaza Ceasefire Resolution Tabled Indefinitely

    On June 25 a City Council vote to indefinitely table the ceasefire resolution tied. The Mayor broke the tie by voting to table the resolution.

    Tuesday, 7:30pm

    Good morning,

    I am joining Alder Nicole Vafadari in co-sponsoring a Ceasefire Resolution at next week’s Fitchburg Common Council meeting, June 11th at 7:30pm.

    A few details:

    • Resolution Language: Resolution R-123-24 is on the agenda section of the City’s website this Friday.
    • Council Meeting: This resolution will likely be discussed and passed at the beginning of the council meeting. You are welcome to participate in any and all of the following ways:
    • Attend in person at Fitchburg City Hall – 5520 Lacy Road in the Frances Huntley Cooper Council Chambers
    • Comment in person: If you attend in person, you have the option of speaking for up to 3 minutes. You can grab a comment sheet in the back of the room and share with the Mayor
    • Watch Virtually: You may watch via FACTV, Fitchburg’s Public Access website.
    • Attend and/or speak virtually: If you would like to comment virtually, please email to get a zoom link. You will have the same 3 minute speaking limit.
    • Invite friends/supporters/allies: Please feel free to share this invitation far and wide, as it will add to the chorus of other municipalities and counties who have spoken out and put pressure on our federal elected officials.

    Joe Maldonado

  • Read Palestine! High School Book Club

    Read Palestine!, a project of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, is hosting a book club for high school students this summer. We will read They Called Me a Lioness by Ahed Tamimi and Dena Takruri.

    Join us in reading They Called Me a Lionesscovering Ahed Tamimi’s childhood and adolescence living under Israeli military occupation in a small village in the West Bank. Ahed’s father Bassem Tamimi was recently released after 8 months in Israeli detention without trial. 

    You can support local progressive bookstores and buy the book at A Room of One’s Own and Kismet Books.

  • Israeli documents show expansive government effort to shape US discourse around Gaza war

    As the Gaza war rages, Israeli funds target US college campuses and push to redefine antisemitism in US law
    Amichai Chikli speaks in Krakow, Poland, on 22 January 2024. Photograph: Omar Marques/Getty Images

    Lee Fang and Jack Poulson, The Guardian, Mon 24 Jun 2024

    Last November, just weeks into the war in Gaza, Amichai Chikli, a brash, 42-year-old Likud minister in the Israeli government, was called into the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to brief lawmakers on what could be done about rising anti-war protests from young people across the United States, especially at elite universities.

    “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now, that I think we should, especially in the United States, be on the offensive,” argued Chikli.

    Chikli has since led a targeted push to counter critics of Israel. The Guardian has uncovered evidence showing how Israel has relaunched a controversial entity as part of a broader public relations campaign to target US college campuses and redefine antisemitism in US law.

    Seconds after a smoke alarm subsided during the hearing, Chikli assured the lawmakers that there was new money in the budget for a pushback campaign, which was separate from more traditional public relations and paid advertising content produced by the government. It included 80 programs already under way for advocacy efforts “to be done in the ‘Concert’ way”, he said.

    The “Concert” remark referred to a sprawling relaunch of a controversial Israeli government program initially known as Kela Shlomo, designed to carry out what Israel called “mass consciousness activities” targeted largely at the US and Europe. Concert, now known as Voices of Israel, previouslyworked with groups spearheading a campaign to pass so-called “anti-BDS” state laws that penalize Americans for engaging in boycotts or other non-violent protests of Israel.

    Its latest incarnation is part of a hardline and sometimes covert operation by the Israeli government to strike back at student protests, human rights organizations and other voices of dissent.


  • June 24 – 27, 2024: Madison is hosting a conference for genocide profiteers

  • Israel Is Officially Annexing the West Bank

    A quiet bureaucratic maneuver by Netanyahu’s government has begun transferring control over the occupied territory from military to civilian leadership—violating international law.

    By Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer specializing in international human rights law and international humanitarian law. 

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attend a press conference at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on Jan. 25.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attend a press conference at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem on Jan. 25.

    Foreign Policy, JUNE 8, 2023

    On Nov. 22, 1967, the United Nations Security Council debated a resolution that would become the international community’s most important directive about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 1947 partition plan for Palestine. The discussion concerned the outcome of the 1967 war, during which Israel had triumphed over its Arab neighbors to capture the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and Golan Heights from Syria.

    At the Security Council, Israel’s then-Foreign Minister Abba Eban said, “We shall respect and fully maintain the situation embodied in the cease-fire agreements until it is succeeded by peace treaties between Israel and the Arab States ending the state of war.” Eban wasn’t being entirely accurate: When he made his statement, Israel had already unilaterally applied its law over East Jerusalem; it would do the same 15 years later by formally annexing the Golan Heights. And, over the past half-century, settlement expansion into the West Bank would deepen Israeli control and make a military withdrawal look increasingly unlikely. (Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt as part of a 1979 peace treaty.)

    Still, nebulous diplomatic verbiage aside, Eban’s speech would define Israel’s official position on the West Bank for the 50 years to come: The final status of the occupied territory was to be determined in mediated talks. That is, until a few years ago—when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started openly pushing a policy of unilateral annexation. A recent bureaucratic maneuver within his new far-right government all but made annexation official by beginning the process of transferring many powers overseeing the West Bank from military to civilian leaders—in contravention of international law.


  • June 24 – 26, 2024: War profiteers in Madison! They are not welcome!

    Week of June 24

    Scroll down for:

    –   Monday 6/24 midday vigil 

    –   Tuesday 6/25 midday vigil

    –   Wednesday 6/26 community actions

    –   Your message

    War profiteers, including Lockheed, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman are having a secret symposium in Madison this coming week, June 24th – 27th. It will be hosted at Monona Terrace, and the building will be closed to the general public.

    Most of the sessions and presentations are led by defense contractors, Defence Department officials and representatives of various branches of the US military. Furthermore, thematically, this symposium is heavily dominated by topics of weapon development, such as hypersonic missile technology, advanced materials, and missile defense.

    This event is restricted to government and government contractors only; is not advertised and is not open to the press or general public.

    They want to be unnoticed! So let’s not let them fly under the radar!

    Monday 6/24, Tuesday 6/25 12pm – Madison for WBW is planning to be present in the MLK blvd block between E Wilson and E Doty. The goal and details are being defined; but the fundamental issue remains the same: the war industry causes global death and destruction of all life, suffering, loss of a future and we stand against it.

    Wednesday 6/26 – A coalition of local groups is working on organizing a community action for this day. The hope is to get as many of us out there to show our unequivocal opposition: we know what the war industry causes and we don’t want it.  

    Please understand that both plans above are being worked on as we write. Details as places, times, engagements are being discussed in the coalition.   They will be communicated daily on instagram: stay tuned!  If you are not linked to Instagram, please email to to let us know that you want to be informed.

    Your message – Create your own sound bite message against the war industry: what is your main reason to oppose it (many choices…); make your own sign of dissent to wave. Send us a picture of that slogan, we’ll collect them.

    World BEYOND War is a global network of volunteers, chapters, and affiliated organizations advocating for the abolition of the institution of war. 
    Donate to support our people-powered movement for peace.

  • June 26, 2024: War Profiteers out of Madison!

  • Israeli airstrikes kill dozens in Gaza City

    Israeli strikes killed 38 people in four neighborhoods Saturday, the Gaza civil defense force said. The military said it struck Hamas infrastructure in the city.

    By Victoria BissetMohamad El Chamaa and Lior Soroka, The Washington Post,

    June 22, 2024

    Palestinian families mourn next to the bodies of their relatives at Nasser Hospital in the Gaza Strip on Friday. (Haitham Imad/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

    Israeli airstrikes on four neighborhoods in Gaza City killed at least 38 people Saturday, the Gaza civil defense force said, adding that rescue crews were continuing to search for more dead and wounded in the rubble.

    The bombardment hit residential buildings in the city’s north, south, east and west, with significant damage and a massive crater reported in the densely built Shati refugee camp in western Gaza City. In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said its fighter jets “struck two Hamas military infrastructure sites in the area of Gaza City,” without elaborating. The Gaza civil defense force did not say if combatants were among the dead.

    Video from Shati verified by Storyful showed entire blocks destroyed by the strike, with residents covered in dust from the debris while searching for survivors.

    “People were sitting, and suddenly, missiles destroyed a group of houses and burned the entire area,” said Yousri al-Ghoul, 43, who lives in Shati.

    “Most residents of the camp were affected because the shrapnel flew across the squares and residential blocks,” he said in a phone interview. “People were carrying others on their backs. There’s still people under the rubble.”

    The multiple, heavy strikes were somewhat unusual for Gaza City, where some of the major battles between Israel and Hamas have died down. Still, the IDF carries out regular strikes in the city, including one on Friday that killed five municipal workers, according to local authorities.