The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

February 23, 2024
Madison Congressional Office Visits

World BEYOND War

12-2:00 pm Sen Baldwin’s office, 30 W Mifflin Street
2:00 pm walk to Rep Pocan’s office
2:15 pm Rep Pocan’s office, 10 E Doty St, #405

Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriation Bill

After passing the US Senate with Sen. Baldwin’s YES vote, the $95 billion gift to the weapons industry is going to the House; this is a supplement to our $886 billion dollar 2024 military budget already approved.

CodePink explains:

    “The Senate bill includes another $14.3 billion for weapons for Israel’s genocide in Gaza, $60 billion to continue the war in Ukraine (bringing that total to $170 billion) and almost $8 billion to further militarize east Asia for a confrontation with China. The bill also includes $9 billion in humanitarian aid to be split between Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; In other words; a few sips of water before the bombing resumes.

    As if that isn’t bad enough, the Senate bill also includes a prohibition against US funding for UNRWA, the lifeline for water and food to Gaza, to threaten mass starvation for over two million people. Finally, there’s a provision that allows President Biden to send unlimited weapons to Israel without the legally-required notification to Congress.”

Rep. Pocan has previously voted against this supplemental bill. We will visit his office and ask him to continue to oppose it. As for Sen. Baldwin, we’ll visit her office again to continue to condemn her votes that fund murderous policies; deaf and blind to the genocide, she continues to promote the defense industry as an economic boon for Wisconsin. What a racket! Can you join us?

RSVP if you can to, or just show up for any part; and to access Baldwin’s office during the time of vigil, you can call 608 217 2248.

Tammy Baldwin should join Bernie Sanders in questioning military aid to Israel

Gaza mourning
Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at a hospital in Deir al Balah, Monday, Jan. 29. AP Photo/Adel Hana

In the face of the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, which has left more than 25,000 people dead, displaced almost 2 million and destroyed much of the region’s civilian infrastructure, the outcry against the wrongheaded policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grows ever louder.

Last week, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, responding to South Africa’s allegation that Israel is committing genocide, adopted provisional measures that require Netanyahu’s government to take steps to prevent genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, to prevent and punish incitement to commit genocide against Palestinians, and to assure basic services and humanitarian assistance can get to Gazans.

“The World Court’s landmark decision puts Israel and its allies on notice that immediate action is needed to prevent genocide and further atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza,” explains Balkees Jarrah, the associate international justice director for Human Rights Watch. “Lives hang in the balance, and governments need to urgently use their leverage to ensure that the order is enforced. The scale and gravity of civilian suffering in Gaza driven by Israeli war crimes demands nothing less.”

The Israeli government rejects the ICJ’s determination. So, too, does the Biden administration.

But the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem observes:


“The provisions of international humanitarian law require that every one of the bombed targets (in Gaza) be defined as a military objective that makes an ‘effective contribution’ to Hamas’ actions, and that its destruction offers Israel a ‘definite military advantage.’ Even if the thousands of targets Israel has struck meet these criteria, the law requires that the resulting harm to civilian life and property be proportionate. Yet there is no way to reconcile Israel’s strikes with these rules. Any claim to the contrary is not only legally flawed but morally unacceptable.”

B’Tselem, which monitors human rights issues in the occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, is mindful of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israeli kibbutzim and a music festival that left more than 1,200 Israelis dead and 250 others kidnapped. The group recognizes that Israel has a right to self-defense.

“However,” it explains, “the right to self-defense does not confer the right to employ unlimited, indiscriminate violence, nor does it allow parties to ignore the provisions of international humanitarian law and commit war crimes. Israel certainly cannot rely on this right to justify a policy that does away with any protection of civilians and assumes there are no bystanders in Gaza.”

The United States has similar responsibilities. “We must understand,” explains U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, “that Israel’s war against the Palestinian people has been significantly waged with U.S. bombs, artillery shells, and other forms of weaponry. And the results have been catastrophic.”

As Congress has been working to pass a supplemental funding bill that includes as much as $14 billion in unconditional military aid for the Netanyahu government, Sanders says, “Enough is enough. Congress must reject that funding. The taxpayers of the United States must no longer be complicit in destroying the lives of innocent men, women, and children in Gaza.”

That’s a principled position. But, so far, it’s been a lonely one.

In mid-January, Sanders made a baseline request of the Senate. In the face of Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza, he asked his colleagues: “Do you support asking the State Department whether human rights violations may have occurred using U.S. equipment or assistance in this war?”

Only 10 senators — Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, and Democrats Laphonza Butler of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Mazie Hirano of Hawaii, Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Peter Welch of Vermont — sided with Sanders.

Many constituents of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, were disappointed that she did not join them. We share their frustration.

Baldwin offered a thoughtful assessment of the crisis in late December, when she said, “The Netanyahu government’s indiscriminate bombing and military approach has led to unacceptable bloodshed in Gaza and does not appear to be moving us closer to our ultimate goals of removing Hamas from power and achieving a lasting peace in the region through a two-state solution.”

At the time, Baldwin called for the immediate resumption of a humanitarian cease-fire — agreed to by Israel and Hamas — in order to ensure the unconditional release of all hostages and full humanitarian access to Gaza. She also called for “adherence to international humanitarian law by all parties and the protection of all civilians and civilian sites.”

How does Baldwin reconcile her stated position with her failure to vote for the resolution that was proposed by Sanders? To us, it makes no sense to recognize that Israel has engaged in “indiscriminate bombing” that “has led to unacceptable bloodshed in Gaza,” and then refuse to support an effort to determine the extent to which Israel is relying on U.S. equipment in this war.

Further, we see no justification for approving additional U.S. military aid for Israel until a determination has been made regarding the role that U.S. weapons may be playing in increasing the death toll in Gaza.

We hold out little hope that U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, will ever do the right thing for the right reason. But we respect Baldwin enough to hope that she will give serious consideration to the arguments being made by Sanders and a growing number of her constituents.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

An Open Letter to Senator Tammy Baldwin: A Shameful Vote on Gaza

Statistics on the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip (07 October – 19 January 2024)

January 19, 2024

An Open Letter to Senator Tammy Baldwin: A Shameful Vote on Gaza

On Tuesday January 16, the US Senate killed Senate Resolution 504, submitted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, calling for basic oversight of U.S. weapons to Israel. Only 11 senators had the courage to vote in favor even though a clear majority of Americans want an end to this bloody war. 

Sen. Baldwin, to your everlasting shame, you ignored your constituents and joined Sen. Ron Johnson and the others who made the cruel choice to keep giving Israel a free pass to commit mass murder.

Our sister city of Rafah is being bombed, shelled, and overwhelmed with more than a million starving, thirsty, sick and wounded civilians — including some 500,000 children — fleeing death and the total destruction of their lives. The projects that the citizens of Madison have so generously supported in Gaza over the last 21 years have been destroyed, damaged or rendered inoperable by Israel with weapons provided by our own tax dollars.

Prominent among these is the Atfaluna Society for the Deaf, a children’s school and adult crafts workshop, which was completely destroyed when Israel deliberately blew up the entire neighborhood where it was located. 

Are the people that our hands were extended to still alive and intact, searching desperately in the cold and wet winter of Gaza for food, water, medicine, shelter, the bodies and body parts of missing relatives? 

Or are they among the 25,000 already confirmed dead, the 7,000 buried under the rubble, the 62,000 enduring their wounds without benefit of medical care, painkillers, or anesthetics to relieve the pain of amputations and caesarean sections? We don’t even know.

We are angered and devastated beyond words that you — who have the unmitigated gall to call yourself a Progressive when asking for our votes — lacked the courage to even investigate whether Israel is using taxpayer-provided weapons to commit war crimes in Gaza in violation of US law.

As Ahmad Abuznaid of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights said, “Every senator who has voted to let Israel off the hook, refusing to conduct the most basic oversight for U.S. weapons, is deeply complicit in Israel’s mass killings of Palestinians in Gaza. History will remember how you fueled bloodshed during a genocide.”

Senator Baldwin, in the name of all that is decent, compassionate and just, how many more must suffer and die before you take action? When will it be enough?

Rowan Atalla
Amy Atalla-Hill
Tsela Barr
Cassandra Dixon
Lisa Masri
Barbara Olson
Donna Wallbaum
Kathy Walsh

December 19, 2023
🕯️Candlelight Vigil at Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Office

We will host this vigil between 4:30 pm and 5:30 pm on Tuesday, December 19th in front of Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Madison office (State St. corner of the Capitol Square.) The vigil will provide community leaders of faith and/or conscience the opportunity to speak out for the need for an immediate ceasefire.

60 lawmakers have called for a ceasefire, but Senator Baldwin has not yet joined them. We are hopeful that with the extra pressure from thousands of her constituents, she will soon join the growing global outcry calling for a ceasefire.

Please invite others to join you, promote this candlelight vigil on Facebook (, and don’t hesitate to call us if you have any questions. 

If a member of your community is interested in being one of the people speaking at this vigil, please call 608-630-3633 to discuss that possibility.

Tim Cordon, Building Unity Coalition – (608) 630-3633
Jane Kavaloski, Chair of Interfaith Peace Working Group 

December 14, 2023
IfNotNow Hanukah Candle Lighting for Ceasefire

🕯️ Everyone is warmly invited to Hanukah Candle Lighting for Ceasefire this Thursday at 6pm-6:30pm on the Capitol Square (at East Washington and Pinckney).

📆 Please RSVP at the following link: 🔗

🔊 We will briefly share song, art, conversation, silence, and light.
🫂 We will connect, as we show that Jews, Jewish community members, and Jewish traditions demand justice, a ceasefire, and Palestinian self-determination.
🫶🏻This event is part of a network of Hanukah events organized by our movement partner IfNotNow.
☎️ Please reach out to me ( or 8435320410) with any questions or anything I can do to welcome you on Thursday.
Blessings and thank you!
Amanda and Samantha
(JVP members, working with IfNotNow)


Wisconsin Democrats’ silence on Gaza is predictable and unconscionable


A photo shows a large flag combining the red, green, white, and black of the Palestinian flag with an image of a large red fist and text reading “Free Palestine.”

After condemning the killing of Israeli civilians, Tammy Baldwin and others fail to oppose atrocities against Palestinians.

If you’re looking for Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation or other key elected officials to show any sense of perspective and conscience amid the ongoing escalation of the Israeli-Palestine conflict—to match their rightful condemnation of Hamas’ killings of Israeli citizens with proportionate, also rightful condemnation of the U.S.-backed and -enabled slaughter of Palestinians on a much greater scale and demand restraint on the part of a key U.S. ally—well, don’t hold your breath. 

Reactions from our Congressional Republicans have been as expected in their bloodthirsty xenophobia and nationalism: Tom Tiffany and Glenn Grothman making it about Islam, Bryan Steil making it about “borders,” Derrick Van Orden throwing tantrums

The contrast on the other side of the aisle is shamefully pale.

As Israel this month indiscriminately bombed Gaza and cut off its population of 2 million from electricity and humanitarian aid, and ordered the “evacuation” of 1 million people who have nowhere to go, Wisconsin’s most prominent elected Democrats said little in defense of innocent Palestinians. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin condemned Hamas and joined a bipartisan group of legislators in casting suspicions on Iran, and joined in another statement calling on the Biden administration to send more ammo to Israel. 


But since this latest wave of violence began, Baldwin has not issued any statements acknowledging the Israeli Defense Forces’ mass murder of Palestinian children and other civilians, or the fact that Israel has blockaded Gaza. Neither have Rep. Gwen Moore, Gov. Tony Evers, or most of the Democratic Wisconsin Assembly members who supported a bipartisan resolution condemning Hamas—one that, of course, says nothing about the suffering or humanity of Palestinians. Ann Jacobs, a Democratic appointee to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, issued a wildly inappropriate call to oust Assembly Rep. Ryan Clancy, apparently because Clancy made a Facebook post comparing the death toll among Palestinians and Israelis in recent years. There is very little tolerance among Wisconsin Democrats, apparently, for wrestling with the full context of the conflict, or for merely acknowledging that Palestinians are human beings and that it is wrong to kill them en masse.

At best, we have Rep. Mark Pocan pointing out that it is impossible for more than 1 million people to “evacuate” within 24 hours, and offering some context about Gaza. Though refreshing in context, Pocan’s remarks leave room to believe that the IDF is just perhaps, in some universe, willing to exercise restraint as it pursues a legitimate military target. Look at what the IDF is actually doing. This isn’t how you fight a specific group of armed combatants. It is how you subjugate and quite possibly annihilate a massive group of human beings. To frame this as a legitimate act of defense or even an understandable reprisal is to launder the sheer horror of it. If a state with Israel’s advanced military and intelligence capabilities intended to specifically target Hamas, it would be doing so, and with much greater precision. Still, Pocan is doing better than most. The bar has passed clean through the core of the earth and out the other side. 

All of these people have a responsibility to do better and show some political spine. Right now, full-on fascists like Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton are salivating for destruction in Gaza. Democrats who don’t push back wholeheartedly against this sort of rhetoric are abjectly failing to do their jobs as a political opposition. They are standing back and sanctioning genocide. Baldwin’s statement on Tuesday that “Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas’s horrific terrorist attacks, but more innocent people cannot pay the price,” is too little, too late, especially coming from someone who has actively enabled the IDF.

I think most Americans have a suspicion of rigid ideologies and strident, absolutist posturing. That can be healthy, until it devolves into utter fecklessness, an unwillingness to commit to specific outcomes, an absence of any coherent framework that holds when the going gets tough. What we end up with is not pragmatism freed of blinders, but a shell game. If you’re not careful, your politics become the sum of the evils you are willing to ignore and the excuses you are willing to make. 

Let’s review some ground truths

The political conversation around Israel in the U.S. is so distorted and so selective that at times you’ve got to pull back and reiterate some very basic things. 

We as Americans are responsible for the choices we make, and for the effects of those choices. They are, in fact, choices, not inevitabilities. We make them in the presence of alternative choices. We enact them from a position of almost incomprehensible advantage and leverage. To spend billions upon billions of dollars arming the State of Israel is a choice. To back up Israel’s impunity, counseling only the most minimal restraint, is a choice, even when Hamas commits atrocities of its own.

One does not plop an entire new state down, from scratch, without killing and displacing other people on a massive scale. When we talk about violence in the context of Israel, it is profoundly dishonest to pretend that the State of Israel was founded without devastating violence, or maintained without devastating violence. Further escalation and aggression will also endanger Israeli citizens, not all of whom are on board with the authoritarian zealotry that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu represents. In fact, some of the Israelis who have suffered grievously this month have spoken out against the IDF killing innocent people in their names.

Israel is a heavily armed, highly sophisticated state. It is not a fragile, endangered waif on the world stage. It boasts a sizable defense industry of its own, and a thriving cybersecurity industry. Companies based in Israel provide spyware tools like Pegasus to the surveillance states and despots of the world. Israel can and does commit violence of a frequency and scale that far outstrips anything Hamas has ever done or ever could. 

Israel is bombing civilian targets, including hospitals and residential buildings. We know this because the IDF is announcing its intention to do so ahead of time, as if evacuating someone’s home before destroying it makes it somehow humane, as if it is remotely possible to evacuate an entire hospital on short notice. It is impossible to drop bombs on a densely populated area without killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure, further immiserating those who survive.

The State of Israel does not treat Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as citizens with equal rights. Arab citizens who have equal rights in a legal sense still face discrimination and structural disadvantages.

Netanyahu’s government is extreme, bigoted, and belligerent even by the standards of right-wing Israeli politics. He has stocked his cabinet with extremely antagonistic hard-liners like National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. Netanyahu has faced multiple corruption charges and has attempted to gut the authority of Israel’s judiciary, provoking large-scale protests. Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi announced a plan on Sunday to enact wartime censorship against the public and the press. The bombs are falling on journalists, too. When American politicians offer pieties about standing with Israel as a fellow democracy, keep in mind that Israel is doing about as well as we are on that front.

It’s a warped debate, but it can change

The fundamental dynamic of Israel-U.S. relations is that Republicans want to give far-right Israeli leaders like Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir 100 percent of what they want, while most Democrats only want to give them, say, 90 to 99 percent of what they want. American politicians and commentators tend to treat that gap as a vast chasm: If Democrats basically uphold the same policy choices that allow Israel to act with impunity, but caution Israel not to overdo it on human-rights abuses, they open themselves up to bad-faith charges of betrayal and anti-Semitism. 

To her credit, Baldwin has opposed Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements, and called for an investigation after the IDF killed Palestinian-American Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May 2022. Baldwin also joined Gwen Moore in calling for an investigation into the January 2022 death of Omar Assad, a Palestinian-American who spent much of his life in Milwaukee. Baldwin has opposed the  Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel but has stopped short of supporting blatantly unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation at the federal level. (At the state level, Wisconsin does have an anti-BDS law on the books, aimed at state agencies and contractors.) Like a lot of folks condemning violence against Israel, Baldwin also doesn’t much approve of non-violent protest against Israel. It’s a mixed bag, but the context makes her current silence on Palestine especially dispiriting.

One might argue that it’s politically practical for someone like Baldwin to take a hawkish stance as she heads into another reelection campaign, that you need to do some saber-rattling to get a “purple-state” electorate to take you seriously. It is also hard to see the pragmatism of continually electing people who aren’t interested in changing our approach to the conflict. A politician unwilling to take risks and advocate for a much-needed shift in perspective is really not so useful after all. Such is the drab, defeated state of the Democratic Party.

No amount of hawkish statements or actual votes in support of Israel will ultimately shield Democrats like Baldwin from Republican narratives about them being weak or anti-Israel or soft on Iran or any other thing. Republicans are always willing to be more extreme, and they go with whatever narrative they feel advantages them politically, because they can, because they answer only to a cultish base that dwells entirely in a realm of delusion. Baldwin could join the IDF and personally shoot up a Palestinian hospital. It wouldn’t stop Republicans from calling her “anti-Israel,” any more than Joe Biden’s support for Israel will stop Republicans from leveling the same accusation against him. You cannot beat the right at warlike chest-beating, ever.  

By the way, these kinds of accusations didn’t stop Baldwin from beating Tommy Thompson in 2012. There is also evidence that Democratic voters are growing more sympathetic toward Palestinians and more critical of Israel’s government. There is more open debate about military aid to Israel, too. Sticking up for Palestine might not be as politically risky as it used to be. Even if it were, there’s no excuse for turning a blind eye as our ally kills and brutalizes the people it has trapped in Gaza, using weapons we paid for. It’s on us Americans—especially in pivotal states like Wisconsin—to reject the lethal cowardice of our politicians.

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Editor-in-chief and publisher Scott Gordon has covered music and the arts in Madison since 2006 for publications including The A.V. Club, Dane101, and Isthmus, and has also covered policy, environmental issues, and public health for WisContext. He co-founded Tone Madison in 2014.

24 Senators reject Israeli claims and call on FBI to investigate killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

The Senate letter was led by Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin.



The pressure continues to mount on the Biden administration to undertake an investigation of Israel’s killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist, last month in occupied territories.

Yesterday, 24 senators (22 Democrats plus two independents) sent a letter to President Biden demanding that the State Department and the FBI conduct “a comprehensive, impartial, and open investigation” of Abu Akleh’s killing on May 11.

“It has now been over a month since American citizen and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot to death while reporting on an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin,” the senators begin.

Since then, “there has been no significant progress toward the establishment of an independent, thorough, and transparent investigation into her killing.”

The letter is very strong and shows that nearly half of Senate Democrats are not buying Israel’s story– and they have been endorsed by the liberal Israel lobby.

The “only way” for there to be a “credible” investigation is for the U.S. to undertake it, the senators say. And the case has only grown “more urgent” since “new information” has emerged. The senators cite the many media investigations (including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and AP) finding that an Israeli soldier killed the Al Jazeera broadcaster from about 600 feet away– and that there were no clashes with Palestinian gunmen, as Israel maintained. The senators emphasize that Abu Akleh and other reporters wore Press flak jackets and “stood in front” of the Israeli convoy so as to identify themselves to the army that morning.

And they quote a damning statement by Israel’s army spokesperson the day she was killed.

Ran Kochav stated that Ms. Abu Akleh and her film crew “were armed with cameras, if you’ll permit me to say so.”

The letter echoes the demand for a U.S. investigation that 57 Democratic Congresspeople made to Secretary of State Antony Blinken a month ago.

Good news, the Senate letter is being widely reported, not just in Haaretz. The Hill and Reuters have stories, and Politico says that there has been bipartisan pressure for an investigation, including from Sen. Mitt Romney.

So the shooting of Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11 is not going away, and high level diplomats are going to have to try to paper it over before Biden’s visit to Israel next month. The State Department’s claims that Israel is seriously investigating are laughable, with reporters all but mocking the official endorsement of Israel’s procedures.

The liberal Israel lobby group J Street has endorsed the letter’s demand as “the only just and sensible solution – an independent US investigation into the death of its own citizen to ensure full accountability for those responsible.”

Biden “needs to take note of the multiple letters and other calls by dozens and dozens of lawmakers for a US investigation of Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing and get it done,” Dylan Williams of J Street writes.

Williams reports that AIPAC, the rightwing Israel lobby group, is lobbying against the letter, saying that the “circumstances” of her death remain “unclear,” despite the “hasty” media investigation.

That’s an absurd claim by a mouthpiece for the Israeli government. The many media investigations have all found, based on eyewitness, video evidence, and forensic ballistic analysis, that a series of automatic rifle shots came from an Israeli convoy.

Reuters quotes a claim by the the Israeli embassy: “Israel conducted a thorough inquiry and “‘continues to call for an investigation with the United States in an observer role.’”

This is also absurd on its face because in six weeks Israel has released no information from that supposed inquiry–no video, for instance.

The Senate letter was led by Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin. Other signatories are Sherrod Brown, Tom Carper, Tammy Duckworth, Dick Durbin, Martin Heinrich, Tim Kaine, Angus King (independent, Maine), Amy Klobuchar, Patrick Leahy, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Bernie Sanders (independent, Vermont), Brian Schatz, Jeanne Shaheen, Tina Smith, Elizabeth Warren, Raphael Warnock, Ben Ray Luján and Sheldon Whitehouse.

Text of the letter is here. Here’s an image of it: