Israel Report

October 2002         
Red Star of David

Sabotaging Israel's Red Star of David

by Edward L. Greenspan and David C. Nathanson - October 10, 2002
The Magen David Adom (MDA), the Red Star of David, was born 52 years ago. It is the Red Cross, except with a Jewish symbol. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to alleviate human suffering. It serves, without discrimination, the entire Israeli population, including 1.1-million Israeli Arabs, and Palestinian Arabs in need.

MDA is not a government agency. It sought membership in the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) with the Red Star of David as its emblem. The Star of David is the symbol of the Jewish people as well as of Israel. Surrender of its emblem should not be a condition of membership. But its application for membership of the IFRC was rejected at the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which required all new national aid societies to adopt the Red Cross symbol. And yet since that time some 25 Red Crescent Societies representing the Muslim world have been admitted to the IFRC which is now called the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Services.

Every effort Israel has made to obtain recognition of MDA's emblem has failed due to tremendous world anti-Israel sentiment. MDA's exclusion and the non-recognition of its symbol are blatant examples of the ongoing campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State. The IFRC's treatment of MDA as a pariah is shameful.

The American Red Cross characterizes MDA's exclusion as "an injustice of the highest order." MDA is the only national emergency relief society to be excluded from the world's largest humanitarian network.

Recently, the Federal Court of Appeal also struck a blow against MDA. The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) had issued a notice of revocation of the registration as a charitable organization of MDA's Canadian branch. By a majority, the court upheld the proposed revocation. Like the Red Cross, MDA, being independent of government, depends upon contributions from friends, volunteers and chapters worldwide. By denying charitable status, the judgment impedes fundraising needed to enable MDA to fulfil its humanitarian objectives.

To qualify as "charitable," an organization must devote its resources to charitable activities carried on by itself. The CCRA decided the purchase of bullet proof vests was not charitable. MDA said its ambulances service very dangerous areas, often assisting people subjected to terrorist attacks and equipment to protect the injured, as well as the drivers, is needed. The CCRA demanded at least 10 instances of the locations where the ambulances had to encounter terrorist bullets. The Court noted this demand was "unduly sarcastic."

While the CCRA ultimately did not base its revocation notice on the purchase of bullet proof vests, it showed itself in this case to be permeated with an anti-Israel attitude. The basis for revocation offered by CCRA was that MDA carried on activities contrary to a supposed Canadian public policy against operating across the "greenline," i.e. the Occupied or Disputed Territories (the eastern part of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank).

The Court held there was no legal foundation for the CCRA's position that, because of Canadian public policy, MDA was not carrying out its charitable objectives to the extent that it operated in the Occupied Territories. The Court held there was no definite public policy that a charitable organization could not operate in the Occupied Territories. But the majority did uphold the "Minister's fundamental concern" that the Canadian MDA (CMDA) "did not take appropriate steps to ensure that the ambulances and equipment it provided to MDA would be used for charitable purposes." The court held the MDA's resemblance to the Red Cross "questionable" since the MDA "is not recognized by the family of International Red Cross Societies." Further, since there was some "evidence" that the MDA had given one ambulance to the Israeli Defence Forces, the Court questioned CMDA's charitable purpose. The Court speculated that MDA might have been involved in military operations. The "evidence" was an internal memorandum referring to "evidence gleaned from CBC news reports and other unnamed sources" relating to "the use of ambulances in the Occupied Territories and the use of ambulances in the transportation of armed personnel, ammunition and other Armed Forces activities." The dissenting judge said these were not facts, CMDA should have been granted an opportunity to address them, and the CCRA should not act on unsubstantiated news reports.

The majority wondered whether or not MDA is truly a charitable organization and why the IFRC has not accepted Israel as a member. Does the majority not read the newspapers? Does it not understand there is an attempt to isolate Israel, to delegitimize virtually all its organizations, an attempt stemming from hatred for Israel and its people? The effect of this judgment is to lend support to Israel's enemies. This judgment is wrong and should not stand.

The judgment can be nullified in one of two ways:

1. by an appeal, with leave, to the Supreme Court of Canada; or

2. by the Minister of National Revenue's refusing to publish the revocation notice in the Canada Gazette because if it is not published, it does not take effect and the charity can survive an unsuccessful appeal.

The Minister could easily take the second way after negotiating with the CMDA to ensure it is in "technical" compliance.

The cross is the symbol of Christianity. The crescent is the symbol of the Muslim world. The Star of David is the symbol of the Jewish people as well as of Israel. There is no reason on earth that the Red Star of David should not be accorded the same international recognition as the other two symbols. It should also retain its charitable status despite what two of three Canadian judges say.

Edward L. Greenspan, Q.C. and David C. Nathanson, Q.C. are Toronto lawyers.
PLEASE Sign Petition: Save Canadian Magen David Adom

©2002 - National Post

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