GENEVA, May 23 (JTA) — Israel has issued a protest with the International Red Cross over a statement made by a Red Cross official who called Israeli settlements “war crimes,” an Israeli official here told JTA.
The protest filed this week with Jakob Kellenberger was over a comment made May 17 by Rene Kosirnik, the head of the International Red Cross delegation to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Kosirnik’s comment also drew a rebuke from the United States.
“We don’t think this comment is helpful at this particularly volatile time,” said a U.S. State Department spokesman, Philip Reeker.
On Wednesday, a Red Cross spokesman denied that Kosirnik had ever intended to describe Israeli settlements as war crimes.
Kosirnik’s comments had been misinterpreted, the spokesman said.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry reacted to Kosirnik’s May 17 briefing in Jerusalem by informing the Red Cross that it is reviewing its policy toward the organization, according to the Jerusalem Post.
A Foreign Ministry legal advisor, Alan Baker, said Kosirnik’s comments raised the question of whether the Red Cross can continue to carry out impartial functions in the region.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry is meanwhile circulating a position paper indicating, among other things, that “Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has existed from time immemorial and was expressly recognized as legitimate in the Mandate for Palestine adopted by the League of Nations.”
In another development, the Red Cross issued a statement in Geneva saying it finds the “ongoing killing of youths, and even infants” in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence “deeply disturbing.”
“These killings have been as much a result of intentional attacks as of the consequence of the indiscriminate or disproportionate use of force,” the statement said.
An Israeli diplomat told JTA that the Jewish state considers “such statements a provocation and especially disturbing.”
A Red Cross official in Geneva said the statement was directed as much at the Palestinians as it was at Israelis.