Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

International Red Cross Head Wants to Include Israeli Group

December 26, 1995
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross has indicated that he wants to welcome Israel’s Magen David Adom into the worldwide organization.

Magen David Adom, or Red Star of David, the Israeli version of the International organization, has fought for years to be recognized by the worldwide movement.

ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga said in an interview here that he is personally committed to Israel and that he would like to “bring the disputed issue to a satisfactory solution.”

Earlier this month, a worldwide conference here of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement brought together its components: the League of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; the individual national Red Cross or Red Crescent societies; and the ICRC, a private operation that is considered the most influential component of the movement.

In 1986, the International Red Cross Movement and the League of the Red Cross Societies both changed their names to incorporate the red crescent to accommodate Muslim nations.

The issue of admitting Magen David Adom is a political one, Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said in a telephone interview last week in New York. Some chapters “can’t agree to admit Israel,” he said.

The WJC was represented at the conference by the chairman of its Geneva-based U.N. Watch project, Ambassador Morris Abram.

Abram has proposed three alternative solutions to the ICRC: * Include Magen David Adom on an equal footing with the other symbols; * Return to the pre-1986 condition, with the red cross serving as the universally recognized symbol; or * Adopt a neutral, nonreligious-based universal symbol.

Advocates for the movement have pointed out that the original red cross symbol did not have a religious connotation but represented the locale of its founding, Switzerland, whose flag – a red cross on a white field – was reversed.

In 1986, with the inclusion of the red crescent to symbolize Islam, a religious connotation became explicit, according to the World Jewish Congress.

Apparently, a special committee has been established to bring up new proposals during the next two years.

But Sommaruga is now seeking a way within the current structure to allow for the admission of the Magen David Adom, Steinberg said.

Recommended from JTA