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American Red Cross Leader Pushes for Full Israeli Membership in Group

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The International Committee of the Red Cross is considering granting membership to Israel’s Magen David Adom.

American Red Cross officials urged the inclusion of the Israeli humanitarian organization during an international assembly held in Geneva.

At last week’s meeting, the president of the American Red Cross, Dr. Bernadette Healy, said the Star of David emblem should be recognized by the international Red Cross.

The exclusion of Israelis is “a betrayal of the sacred principles of this movement” and “cannot be tolerated any longer,” she said.

But swift action does not look likely. The assembly agreed to establish a working group to deal with the issue and report back to the next assembly in four years.

While Israeli diplomats welcomed the new U.S. initiative, they said they would have preferred a more discreet approach.

This serious problem cannot be changed by a “beat of the drum,” one Israeli official said.

Meanwhile, the International Red Cross continues to be plagued by allegations that some of its officials helped high-level Nazis obtain travel documents at the end of World War II. The documents, according to the allegations, enabled such top Nazi figures as Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele evade capture at the war’s end.

This week, the Swiss-run ICRC called on researchers at the University of Geneva to launch an investigation of the allegations, ICRC spokesman Urs Boegli told JTA.

He also stated that Israel’s continued exclusion from the International Red Cross is “not acceptable to us.”

If Israel is included, the red Star of David would join the red cross and red crescent as emblems to protect aid workers in wartime.

Emblems used by Red Cross agencies were established in the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war.

The Star of David was excluded by a 22-21 vote at that time.

Since then, Israel’s Magen David Adom has worked closely with the Red Cross, but it has only observer status at the meetings of international body.

The Red Cross symbol was originally adopted by Swiss humanitarian leaders in 1863.

The emblem reverses the colors of the Swiss flag, which has a white cross on a red field. Arab groups belonging to the humanitarian movement were later allowed to use a crescent.

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