The Olympia City Council voted 4-2 against adopting the Gaza Strip city of Rafah as a sister city late Tuesday night.
Before the vote, at nearly midnight, an overflow crowd of about 150 people attended a public hearing about the subject, and 83 signed up to speak. Of those, 55 supported of the proposal and 28 opposed it.
Council members Laura Ware and TJ Johnson voted in favor of the ordinance; members Karen Messmer, Doug Mah, Jeff Kingsbury and Mayor Mark Foutch voted against it. Council member Joe Hyer was absent.
Read Council says no to Rafah tie Motion against other sister city relationships also loses
by Matt Batcheldor ~ April 18, 2007 ~ The Olympian
This was my letter to the Olympia City Council several days before the hearing and decision:
Subject: Please support the Olympia-Rafah sister city proposal
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2007
From: Gabi Clayton
Dear Olympia City Council,
I am writing to ask you all to please vote to adopt the Olympia-Rafah sister city proposal.
I’ve heard that there are some people who question Rafah’s credibility as a ‘legitimate’ sister city. What difference does that make? In reaching for peace how can we let something like “legitimacy” get in the way? This would be like saying that a person who does not have married parents is “illegitimate” and therefore must be less than human or not deserving to be treated as an equal. Do you really believe that? I do not think so.
How can Olympia turn down this request for sisterhood? On top of every other reason to become family with Rafah, it was one of our own children’s dreams to see this happen. Rachel Corrie did not live to see her dream a reality, but we do not have to let it go because we have lost her.
Sister Cities International works to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, & cooperation – one individual, one community at a time. “No Borders … No Boundaries … A World of Possibilities.”
Please vote for a world of hope and possibility.
I sent a slightly edited version of my letter to the Olympian newspaper. I have taken a public stand on this because I feel strongly about it.
I know there are many people who disagree with my position on this, including people who I respect and work with on many other issues. I am not afraid of that.
Some of them have made the point that as Jews they cannot forget what was done to them. And I agree. And yes, Israel is a land with a Jewish heritage. But not only Jews were there in the past. That region was shared by other people.
What I did not mention in the letters and perhaps should have is that I am the daughter of a Jewish refugee from Germany, and three of my four grandparents were Jews. That heritage is something I am proud of (see Encircled By My Heritage) and that has made me more aware of what this kind of bias does to people.
I was talking to Alec last night and I told him that one of the arguments is that Rafah is not legitimate because the people there do not live in a legitimate city because it is not part of a real country. But Israel took land from the Palestinians. I compared it to when the people came here and took land from Native Americans to make these United States.