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Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Red Cross finally does the right thing

The Red Cross finally did the right thing late last night, defeating an Arab amendment challenging Israel's 'occupation' of 'Arab territory' since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War by a 191-72 vote, and passing by a 237-54 vote a resolution setting up the legal basis for Israelis' admission and making an exception to the rule that societies have to be under a sovereign state so that the 'Palestinians' could join as well.

The decision early Thursday completed a complicated process that included the creation of the optional, third emblem - a blank, red-bordered square standing on one corner - that could stand alone or frame the Israeli society's red star.

The emblem - dubbed the "red crystal" - was approved over Muslim objections in a hard-fought diplomatic conference last December.

According to the Jerusalem Post, when Magen David Adom's bid for membership was turned down in 1949, it objected to using either the cross or the crescent (the movement's two accepted symbols), and the Red Cross movement refused to admit another emblem. YNet adds that the simple red cross on a white background - the reversal of colors of the Swiss flag - was adopted as the emblem of the movement when it was founded in 1863 by Swiss humanitarians trying to care for battlefield casualties who otherwise were left to suffer. But the symbol unintentionally reminded Muslims of the Christian Crusaders, and they insisted on their own red crescent in the 19th century.

The MDA society and its friends have been campaigning for years to find a way out of the stalemate, and the new emblem was designed primarily to meet Israel's objections. Magen David Adom can combine it with the red star to create a new logo.

Israel's military will be able to use the crystal by itself on a white flag to protect medics and other humanitarian workers helping war casualties. But any society could combine the emblem with the cross or crescent - or both - for temporary use.

YNet also quoted Bonnie McElveen Hunter, chairman of the American Red Cross, which had been campaigning for years for the Israeli society's admission as saying, "This is an extraordinarily exciting evening. This has been going on for 58 long years. It's time. It's overdue."

Yes, it is long overdue. While it's nice that the world has finally removed the sore spot of excluding Israel from membership in its premier humanitarian agency, despite all that Israel does for rescue efforts worldwide, I don't think we need to blow this out of proportion. The fact that it took so much effort - especially by the United States - for this to happen shows how isolated Israel remains on the world scene today. I have no realistic expectations that will change anytime soon.

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