Insistent and courageous advocacy by the American Red Cross has finally put an end to a bizarre and shameful chapter in the history of a humanitarian organization, by admitting Israel into the International Red Cross (ICRC) over the objections and obstructionism of Arab and Muslim states.
The ostensible issue that kept Israel out was Israeli refusal to use the cross as a symbol. The ICRC maintained that the cross was taken from the Swiss flag and was simply a symbol of neutrality, but of course there is a reason why the Swiss put the cross on their flag, rather than say, a Jewish star. This argument, redolent of religious bigotry and coercion, was leveraged by Arab and Muslim countries to keep Israel out of the ICRC for 58 years, and has kept the Magen David Adom out since the 1930s.
The current decision allows a rhomboid diamond symbol into which, apparently, Israel may put the Magen David or not. Ami Isseroff
Last update - 08:32 22/06/2006 Red Cross movement admits Israel, ending long exclusion
By The Associated Press
The Red Cross humanitarian movement Thursday admitted the Israeli society that had been left waiting for nearly 60 years, resolving a longstanding concern over Crusaders, crosses and crescents.
With a round of applause, the international Red Cross federation admitted Israel's Magen David Adom society simultaneously with the Palestine Red Crescent. An optional new emblem was adopted so that Israel could retain its red star of David instead of having to adopt the red cross or crescent used by the 184 other societies in the global movement.
"This is an extraordinarily exciting evening," said Bonnie McElveen Hunter, chairman of the American Red Cross, which had been campaigning for years for the Israeli society's admission. "This has been going on for 58 long years. It's time. It's overdue."
Ambassador Itzhak Levanon said the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent had earlier "defeated completely" a Muslim amendment that would have challenged Israel's occupation of Arab territory since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The vote was 72 votes for the amendment and 191 against, he said.
"I am pleased very much now," said Levanon.
Then the conference passed by a 237-54 vote a resolution setting up the legal basis for Israelis' admission and making an exception to the rule that societies have to be under a sovereign state so that the Palestinians could join as well.
Magen David Adom has sought membership in the Red Cross movement since the 1930s - even before Israel became a state - but has been barred from entry because it objects to using the traditional symbols of the movement to identify its medical and humanitarian workers.
The decision early Thursday completed a complicated process that included the creation of the optional, third emblem - a blank, red-bordered square standing on one corner - that could stand alone or frame the Israeli society's red star.
The emblem - dubbed the "red crystal" - was approved over Muslim objections in a hard-fought diplomatic conference last December. But that was only the first step, and the conference was called to complete the job.
Conference organizers said their aim was to make the movement universal.
Mediators failed Wednesday to overcome opposition from Muslim countries.
The failure to reach a compromise after hours of negotiations forced delegates to reconvene for an overnight session for the votes because the opposition to Israel meant consensus approval was impossible.
The simple red cross on a white background - the reversal of colors of the Swiss flag - was adopted as the emblem of the movement when it was founded in 1863 by Swiss humanitarians trying to care for battlefield casualties who otherwise were left to suffer.
But the symbol unintentionally reminded Muslims of the Christian Crusaders, and they insisted on their own red crescent in the 19th century.
When Israel's society bid for membership was turned down in 1949, it objected to using either the cross or the crescent, and the Red Cross movement refused to admit yet another emblem.
The society and its friends have been campaigning for years to find a way out of the stalemate, and the new emblem was designed primarily to meet Israel's objections. Magen David Adom can combine it with the red star to create a new logo.
Israel's military will be able to use the crystal by itself on a white flag to protect medics and other humanitarian workers helping war casualties. But any society could combine the emblem with the cross or crescent - or both - for temporary use.
Original content is Copyright by the author 2006. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000128.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNNfirstname.lastname@example.org. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.
Constructive comments, including corrections, are welcome. Do not use this space for spam, publishing articles, self promotion, racism, anti-Zionist propaganda or character defamation. Inappropriate comments will be deleted. See our Comment policy for details. By posting here, you agree to the Comment policy.