Last Night Olympia’s City Council Said No to Adopting Rafah as a Sister City

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.

Thank you,
Gabi Clayton
Olympia, WA


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.

1 thought on “Last Night Olympia’s City Council Said No to Adopting Rafah as a Sister City”

  1. Thankyou, Gabi for your outspoken word.
    You are a brave lady whom I admire and respect.
    I need your help with something and maybe the readers of your blog can help:
    Dear Friends and Elders,
    Good Morning ! How are you all doing ?
    As you know and saw, I am pretty bummed out by what happened last night, for a variety of reasons, but most of all, because I felt sad for all the volunteers for worked their butts off for the past 4 years. Of course, I have also been taking stock and wondering what we could’ve done differently – did we approach and educate 5000 new people in Olympia, but forgot to talk to the 50 most influential, vocal pro-israeli people who could / did throw a spanner in the machinery ?

    Video can be viewed here –

    Well, I am Coping with last night by doing something constructive. And if anyone else has the time, energy or compassion left do anything, please join me in :

    1- I am collecting specific quotes of disinformation or mistakes (intentional or not) by the pro-israeli people and a short rebuttal below it.
    eg : “ALL the people in Rafa are terrorists.” or “Making a tri- relationship with a city in Israel should be precondition for this one”.
    (write your Rebuttal below)

    2- Artistic / musical depictions of what happened last night at the city council meeting and name your work. We shall propose to make a traveling display for every public meeting for the next 2 months eg: OMJP, PMR, VFP, GP, Jewish-Muslim Compassionate Listening, Jewish Voices for Peace, PPU, Successive city council meetings etc.

    Plz. look at the minute 4:30 in this video of children from around the world – the shooting of those children took place by the Fort Lewis soldiers in Iraq.
    I am floating the idea that we should try to get “SISTER CITY relationship” with that city in Iraq. What kind of opposition would that draw out ?
    The incident happened in Tal Afar, near Mosul, in northern Iraq –
    So, specific question – What do you think ?

    Feeling pretty bummed out,

    I remain,
    Yours Sincerely,
    Muhammad Ayub
    “I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?” ——— LEE IACOCCA


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