Red Cross opens its doors to Israel

Magen David to be enclosed by red crystal; Palestine Red Crescent also accepted.

red cross crystal 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
red cross crystal 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
June Walker, president of the Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization of America, on Thursday hailed Magen David Adom's admission as a full member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as "an important achievement" and "one less struggle for the Jewish people." The Geneva vote, in which states and national humanitarian societies participated, was overwhelmingly in favor, with 237 voting for MDA's inclusion and 54 - mostly Muslim - voting against. MDA's inclusion, for which Israel's national rescue and blood supply organization has waited for 57 years, came at the 29th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which amended its statutes to incorporate a third official emblem. The "red crystal," a diamond standing on one corner that now has the same status as the red cross and red crescent, can be used by MDA and other national societies that do not accept the first two symbols. In a separate decision, the conference asked the ICRC and the International Federation to recognize and admit the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PCRS), even though it does not represent a recognized country. The ICRC announced that, as a result of the vote late Wednesday, "this outcome extends the universality of the movement to an important area of Red Cross and Red Crescent operations, and strengthens the operational cooperation of the two national societies with each other and with their international partners in the movement." The conference was convened as a follow-up to the diplomatic conference of ICRC states last December, which adopted the Third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, creating the red crystal as an additional protective emblem for the movement. "This is an historical moment for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. We urge all governments to respect the red crystal in addition to the red cross and the red crescent," international conference chairman Muhammad al-Hadid, head of the Jordan Red Crescent Society, declared. The use of the red crystal will also provide additional protection to war victims and humanitarian workers in conflict situations where the red cross or the red crescent cannot be used. No state or national society is obliged to make any change to the emblem it uses. Walker told The Jerusalem Post that Hadassah was pleased because it worked hard for years on behalf of the ICRC's acceptance of MDA. "We worked with the American Red Cross, which has long been in favor, at the UN and at every opportunity we could. This is a great day. It will help Israel's image and its visibility as a member of an important international organization." She said that Israel was highly deserving of recognition because "MDA is there at every disaster. It will now not be an outsider but have equal participation and be part of the movement's official arm. MDA will be able to participate in all meetings and receive more funding." Walker said she was not piqued by the fact that the red Star of David would be enclosed by the crystal or be represented by an empty one rather than stand on its own, because the crystal was a neutral symbol that could be used by all the partners. "There are Muslim countries that won't allow the use of the cross, so they too will use an empty crystal," she said. Walker also said she was not upset that the Palestine Red Crescent Society was also admitted, because "anybody who has the capability to help others should be accorded equal status." Meanwhile, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York was due to appear Thursday night with Israel's Ambassador to the US, Daniel Ayalon, at a Washington event to celebrate MDA's official recognition. Heads of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also welcomed MDA's long-awaited admission while denouncing last-minute efforts by Islamic countries to block it on procedural grounds. They praised the American Red Cross for its solid support and for having withheld dues from the international movement to protest its discrimination against MDA.