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THE ISRAEL REPORT

July/August 2000
Jerusalem

Star Of David May Finally Get Equal Treatment

The greatest irony of the saga of the Red Cross and its persistent denial of membership to Israel's Magen David Adom is that the man who fostered this international humanitarian movement was a devoted Zionist.

For 50 years, the International Committee of the Red Cross has fought fiercely to oppose the application for membership of Israel's emergency medical society, which uses the Star of David as its symbol. The door was closed largely due to Islamic opposition, and led to widespread charges of antisemitism.

Now at last, the ICRC looks set to accept Magen David Adom, US and Israeli officials said last week. According to MDA's director Avi Sohar, the decision is based on a compromise whereby the Jewish star would be framed within a border, although the ICRC would not require this border on the two previously accepted symbols, the red cross and Islam's red crescent.

The new border, in the shape of two Vs, with an inverted one on top, is expected to be used by other countries, and in situations in which the cross or the crescent may not be seen as neutral symbols, such as on the battlefield. Following the news, Syria's daily 'A-THAWRA' published an article last Friday, warning of Israel's "latest evil scheme to impose the existence of its ethnic state, with its symbols, on international bodies."

Throughout the long debate over MDA's membership, few have noted that the Red Cross movement was birthed by the humane pleas of Jean Henri Dunant, a Swiss Protestant who also took up the cause of the Jewish return to the Land of Israel. In the 1860's, Dunant wrote an eyewitness account of the horrors of war in his book "Recollections of Solferino," a work that touched a nerve throughout European society. His book sparked the Red Cross movement to care for those wounded and imprisoned during armed conflicts and provoked European leaders to convene and draw up the First Geneva Convention on warfare. Dunant later shared in the first Nobel peace prize and died a pauper, after exhausting his wealth and energy helping to resettle the suffering Jews of Eastern Europe in their ancient homeland.


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