A new Red Cross emblem was accepted at an international
conference Thursday over Syrian objections, paving the way
for Israel to join the humanitarian movement after nearly
six decades of exclusion.
The 192 signatories of the Geneva Conventions approved the
new “red crystal” emblem by vote after last-ditch
negotiations between Israel and Syria over Damascus’
demands for humanitarian access to Syrian citizens in the
Golan Heights broke down.
The new emblem — a red square standing on one corner,
with a blank white interior and a thick red border —
was aimed at resolving the dispute with Israel but also
could be used by any national society that feared the red
cross used by most countries and the red crescent preferred
by Muslim nations would not be respected by combatants.
Israel’s Magen David Adom rescue service has used
a red Star of David to identify its ambulances and medical
Magen David Adom, or Red Shield of David, could place a
red star in the center of the crystal for humanitarian missions
at home or abroad if a host country allowed it.
Magen David Adom will not operate under the cross or crescent.
A request for recognition of its red Star of David emblem
was rejected in 1949 and Arab countries have since blocked
attempts to find an alternative symbol.
A number of Muslim countries again tried to block Israel’s
path into the Red Cross movement early Thursday morning,
voting against the proposal after three days of negotiations
The American Red Cross has been campaigning for years to
end Magen David Adom’s exclusion.
“Not only does it create a neutral emblem devoid of
cultural, political and religious connotation,” Devorah
Goldburg, spokeswoman for the U.S. society, told The Associated
Press. “It paves the way for Magen David Adom to become
a full voting member of the international Red Cross movement.”
Goldburg also noted that the U.S. society had withheld more
than $35 million in dues to the International Federation
of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies since 2000 in an
effort to win the Israeli society’s acceptance.
The U.S. government also welcomed the decision. “This
will enable the Israeli national society, the Magen David
Adom, to join we hope soon next year into the international
Red Cross Red Crescent movement,” said John B. Bellinger
III, head of the U.S. delegation.
A hurdle to Arab support was believed to have been cleared
last week when Magen David and the Palestine Red Crescent
struck a deal allowing each other’s paramedics to
Mohammad Abu-Koash, Palestinian ambassador to international
organizations in Geneva, said the emblem was a humanitarian
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies also welcomed the adoption of the red crystal
and said it believed it would “provide a comprehensive
and lasting solution to the emblem question.”
The red cross symbol was first adopted in 1863 and it reverses
the colors of the neutral Swiss flag, without any religious
intent. But most Muslim countries refused to use it and
the Ottoman empire used the red crescent instead to protect
medical workers in the 1876 Russo-Turkish war.
The result is inline with our suggestion in 'The Scribe'
issue 75, which may have
had a positive influence on the Red Cross' latest agreement
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