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       Saturday, June 24, 2006

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Israel Joins International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

By Lisa Schlein
22 June 2006

Israel's aid organization, Magen David Adom has been admitted as a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, ending more than six decades of exclusion from the worldwide humanitarian movement.  The Palestine Red Crescent has also joined the movement.   

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Israeli and Palestinian societies have been providing invaluable humanitarian assistance to both of their peoples for decades.   Now they are members of the same worldwide humanitarian organization, Red Cross officials believe the two societies will be able to enhance their cooperation and provide better relief services for those in need. 

Israel's Magen David Adom has been trying to become a member of the International Red Cross movement since 1949.  But, politics and Israel's refusal to use either the Red Cross or Red Crescent symbol kept Israel isolated. 

A spokeswoman for the Red Cross Federation, Marie-Francoise Borel, says everything now has changed.  She says nearly 240 states and societies voted to amend the agency's statutes and incorporate an additional emblem, the Red Crystal, which will have the same status as the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems.  She says the neutral symbol will be able to provide an additional layer of protection for aid workers in certain war situations.

"In certain situations, unfortunately, the Red Cross or Red Crescent is given a political or a religious connotation.  It is a wrong connotation," she said. "It is not true because neither one of these signs has a religious significance.  But, the reality is there and we have to live with it..So, there are situations where it is difficult to use either the Red Cross or the Red Crescent.  So, in those particular situations, even in conflict situations, the Red Crystal will be able to be used because it has the same status within the Geneva Conventions as the Red Cross and the Red Crescent-will be able to be used in these particular situations." 

Under the amended statutes, Israel's Magen David Adom will be able to place its Star of David inside the diamond shaped Red Crystal emblem.

The conference had hoped to get approval for the resolution by consensus.  But, that proved impossible after Pakistan and Tunisia with the support of other Muslim countries sought to change the wording of the resolution.  Israel objected.  A vote was taken and more than two-thirds of the members passed the resolution.

For the past six years, the American Red Cross has withheld about $45 million in dues from the International Federation to protest Israel's exclusion.  The American society says it plans to repay all the outstanding money.

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posted by Robert at 1:18 AM  


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