red cross crystal 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
What does the Arab world care about most: establishing Palestine or eliminating Israel? Or do these remain, in Arab eyes, the same goal?
On Wednesday, the voting at the 29th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent provided a direct test of these questions. At stake was the adoption of a red "crystal" - a square turned on one point - to join the red cross and red crescent as official symbols of the venerable humanitarian organization. One purpose of the new symbol was to allow Israel's Magen David Adom to join the 178 National Societies around the world.
The test came, however, because the vote was essentially on whether to admit two societies simultaneously, MDA and the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS). A vote for the crystal was clearly to accept both societies, since Israel could not operate without a recognized symbol and "Palestine" would not be allowed in without Israel. Admitting the PCRS required a special decision, because ICRC rules stipulate that only societies representing a state can become members.
For almost 60 years no exception could be made to the ICRC's policy regarding symbols to include MDA, a large and globally active aid organization representing an established country. By contrast, the moment a neutral symbol, which technically was created for reasons that had nothing to do with Israel or MDA, was adopted, the ICRC had no problem waiving its hard-and-fast rule limiting membership to "national societies" to usher in the PRCS.
It is particularly unfortunate that such blatant bias against Israel extended for so long in the flagship of humanitarian organizations, whose watchwords are "neutral, impartial and independent."
But the root cause of the tragic distortion of the ICRC's creed is not the professionals braving battle zones and disaster areas to save lives, nor the organization itself in Geneva, but the decision of Arab and Islamic nations to exploit even humanitarian organizations in their campaign to eliminate Israel.
Indeed, the voting puts the lie to the Arab line that it stands four-square behind a peace process seeking two states for two peoples, living peacefully side by side. What better embodiment of the two-state solution could there be than simultaneously voting in Israel and "Palestine"? And what greater enmity to Israel could there be than one that would hold Palestine's membership hostage to the need to demonize Israel?
In the end 54 nations and national societies voted against the red crystal, which was devised not just to allow the admission of MDA, but to provide a neutral symbol that the Red Cross itself could use in areas where that symbol might be deemed offensive. Those voting against were overwhelmingly Arab and other Muslim countries, with a smattering of dictatorships like Cuba and China (and shamefully, South Africa), thrown in.
As it happens, the chairman of the conference was a Jordanian, and the Jordanian Red Crescent Society openly spoke out against the politicization of the ICRC by the Muslim world. In what was surely one of its less proud moments, the Jordanian government voted against the crystal, while the JRCS did not.
Saudi Arabia, the author of the "Arab peace plan" that supposedly embodies Arab acceptance of Israel's right to exist, cast two votes against the crystal, one from its government and the other from its Red Crescent Society. Supposedly moderate Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Qatar, also joined in.
All this opposition was not - banish the thought - to allow Israel to use its own unadulterated symbol, the red Star of David. Nor was it to admit Israel without breaking the ICRC's own rules to admit "Palestine." Nor was it to accept Israel in a political body where nations are supposed to vote on matters of national interest.
No, the vote was to accept Israel and Palestine together into an organization whose sole job is to save lives, and which is supposed to embody the ability of a neutral body to rise above national distinctions and conflicts for sake of all humanity. MDA, for example, does not check the politics of the victims stricken in Muslim countries by earthquakes or tidal waves before rushing in with its unfortunately battle-tested expertise.
Is there no forum to which official Arab enmity against Israel - not a particular Israeli policy - does not extend?