Finally, after 57 years of exclusion, Israel’s Red Cross society, the Magen David Adom, has been admitted into the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement as an official member, this despite Mulsim delegates’ attempts to scotch Israel’s bid to join.
|Two new National Societies have been officially admitted as members of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. They are the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PCRS) and the Israeli National Society, Magen David Adom (MDA). This brings the number of Federation member Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to 185.|
The new emblem added is however not the Israeli Star of David. It is the neutral Red Crystal.
The figure below depicts the 3 emblems now accepted by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.
The Red Cross International Federation overwhlemingly adopted the change to the statutes that allowed the introduction of the red crystal: 237 delegations voted Yes, 54 voted No, and 18 abstained.
I wonder how South Africa voted. In September last year South Africa voted against Israel's inclusion - in line with the Non Aligned Movement.
The Red Cross is a humanitarian movement that should include everyone. So why have they decided to adopted a neutral crystal rather than the Star of David?
The new protocol allows the Israeli Society to continue to use its red Star of David as its sole emblem inside Israel. When working outside Israel the Society would need to work according to the requirements of the host country. This could mean that Israel be forbidden to include the Star of David inside the crystal forcing Israel to use the empty Red Crystal instead.
So, in order to get the MDA admitted, they had to accept the use of the Crescent. In those countries that agree, and only in those countries, the MDA will be permitted to put a little Star of David inside the Crystal.
There has been much criticism of Israel's decision to accept this decision. Some have even argued that it reflects a "second class" treatment in order to be accepted on the playground of school bullies. Is this criticism justified?
Let's try and understand the situation a little deeper by looking at the history of this controversy.
|For over 50 years, Israel's Red Cross society, the Magen David Adom, has not been able to be a member of the International Red Cross Movement. |
The reason for its exclusion has been the fact that the Statutes of the Movement require national societies "to use the name and emblem of the Red Cross or Red Crescent in conformity with the Geneva Conventions." For historical, religious and national reasons, the use of these emblems to mark Israel and MDA's medical and religious personnel is clearly not practicable.
The issue of amending this emblem requirement has been on the agenda of the International Red Cross Movement for over 50 years. At the Diplomatic Conference adopting the Geneva Conventions in 1949 Israel submitted a formal proposal to the effect that a Red Shield of David on a white background should be recognized as a distinctive emblem but, by the narrowest margin of 22 votes to 21, the amendment was not adopted.
The ICRC also ruled out the addition of the Shield of David as an additional emblem, arguing that this would not address the problem of other States and National Societies interested in using a new neutral emblem. It was also argued that having an emblem used by only one country, was contrary to the principles of universality.
So trumpeting the principle of universality, the Red Cross ensured that membership was not universal by refusing to accept Israel as a member - all because Israel wanted to use the Star of David as its emblem. (And don't try display that Star at a Fifa world cup either!)
Did you know
There is another lesser known emblem recognised by the Red Cross. The Red Lion and Sun was used by Persia/Iran up until their Islamic revolution when they adopted the Red Crescent. The Red Cross argue against the inclusion of the Star of David because only one nation uses it - but the precedent of allowing an emblem for just one nation had already been set with Iran.