New Red Cross emblem hits snag

Muslim countries use procedural moves to block progress at conference.

red cross crystal 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
red cross crystal 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
An attempt to end Israel's long isolation from the Red Cross humanitarian movement hit a snag Tuesday as Muslim opponents used procedural moves to block progress at a decisive international conference, delegates said. The International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which opened Tuesday and is expected to conclude Wednesday, is being asked to approve changes to meet Israeli demands of almost six decades that it be granted full membership without using the cross or crescent to identify itself. But Red Cross officials hosting the conference confirmed that the meeting's validity had been challenged. They declined to identify the delegation that filed the motion because the session was being held behind closed doors. "At the moment we've hit a rock, so things have ground to a halt," said Ian Piper, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. He said there was no doubt about the meeting's validity, but said the objection slowed down proceedings because it forced organizers to consult on a response. The conference is focusing on the addition of an optional, third emblem, a blank, red-bordered square standing on one corner, that could stand alone or frame the Red Shield of David of the Israeli rescue society Magen David Adom. The vote has been expected to be a largely formal one, as last December the diplomatic conference of the signatories to the Geneva Convention approved Protocol III to the convention recognizing an additional symbol. Two-thirds of the delegates present must approve that decision when it comes to a vote on Thursday, MDA chairman Dr. Noam Yifrach said. Yifrach said that it would be a historic end to a long struggle that has continued since 1949, when an attempt to admit MDA was rejected by one vote. Israeli ambulances and staffers will continue to bear the Red Star of David symbol with pride, he said. Only on international missions, when necessary, would it be enclosed or accompanied by a red rectangle standing on one end. Yifrach praised the Foreign Ministry, the US and its American Red Cross for their continued efforts to get MDA official recognition. When admitted to the movement, MDA will be entitled to special funding, expand its humanitarian work abroad, cooperate with other members and improve its rescue services inside Israel, he added. Some member countries such as Syria, Iran, Yemen and Lebanon have in recent weeks tried to prevent MDA's inclusion in the movement, but "the Americans tell us they are sure it will pass and we will be admitted," the MDA chairman said.