International Red Cross Sets Up Barrier to the Recognition of Israel’s Magen David Adom
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International Red Cross Sets Up Barrier to the Recognition of Israel’s Magen David Adom

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The International Red Cross Movement appears to have erected a permanent barrier against recognition of Israel’s Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David) as a humanitarian agency by its decision Monday to change its official title to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Israel and Jewish organizations have objected vigorously.

The Red Crescent is the Red Cross equivalent in Moslem countries, just as the Magen David Adom is in Israel. The decision to incorporate the Red Crescent was endorsed without a vote by delegates from more than 120 governments and 137 national societies attending the International Conference of the Red Cross here, a quadrennial event.

Pinhas Eliav, the Israel government delegate, said restriction of recognition to Christian and Moslem emblems means that Israel is excluded from the various international societies which coordinate aid for victims of natural disasters and armed conflict all over the world. He maintained that the Magen David Adom, which sent observers to the conference, fulfills all criteria for full membership, except for its emblem.

Israel has been seeking full membership, to no avail, since the Red Cross Movement was reorganized in 1948-49, in the aftermath of World War II. Eliav, lodging a strong dissent from the conference consensus, noted that the six-pointed Star of David was symbolic of Jewish history, creativity and Jewish suffering, as well as being a religious symbol, as are the cross and crescent.


“To our regret, we encountered a lack of readiness and misunderstanding and even the same political hostility which was and still is manifested against the emancipation of the Jewish people as a nation,” Eliav said. Non-recognition of the Israeli symbol violates the principles of the international humanitarian movement, he said.

He warned that “The revised statutes will further aggravate the situation by crystallizing even more the imposition of two religious and civilizational emblems on our global humanitarian movement.”

Another strong dissent was voiced by Daniel Lack, representative of the World Jewish Congress, which has observer status at the conference. “The use of the emblems associated in the eyes of many with the two great religions of Christianity and Islam enshrines the religious polarization that propels the emblem crisis into unprecedented proportions of gravity,” he said.

“The joint and exclusive use of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in the very title of the movement … renders permanent an anomaly which contradicts the letter and the spirit of the Red Cross philosophy by the reciprocal and mutual reinforcement of these two signs as the symbol of religious polarization and exclusivism,” Lack said.

The conference, which closes Saturday, also changed its title to “The International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.”

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