The Red Cross Crosses Red Lines
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement claim to be the world's largest impartial and neutral humanitarian network that provides protection and assistance to people affected by disasters and conflicts. According to the organization's website, its mission is to "provide assistance without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions."
Yet, does this extend to Israel and the Jewish people? Does this apply to Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped Israeli soldier that has been wasting away in the dark caves of Hamas’s terrorists since June 25, 2006?
Although the Red Cross was founded by Swiss philanthropist, Henri Dunant, an avid supporter of Israel and a Christian Zionist who promoted early Jewish immigration to the Land, the Red Cross has since deviated from Dunant's ideals and now has a history of discrimination against Israel and the Jewish people. While the organization condemns Israel – a ‘true sign’ of being neutral – and has called Israel's blockade of Gaza illegal, Hamas terrorists receive entirely different treatment; they are neither condemned nor reproved. Rather, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) engages in high-level talks with Hamas, which they believe is essential for achieving progress. In the eyes of ICRC, Hamas and their collaborators are only Palestinian armed factions rather than bloodthirsty terrorists.
Meanwhile, Hamas has access to ambulances which they use for transporting weapons and terrorists to better conceal themselves while enjoying "immunity" by operating under the Red Cross and Red Crescent symbols. Yet, Article 44 of the First Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field (1949) clearly states, “… the emblem of the Red Cross on a white ground … may not be employed, either in time of peace or in time of war, except to indicate or to protect the medical units and establishments…"
Magen David Adom and the Red Cross
Since its inception until 2006, the ICRC denied full membership to Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's equivalent to the Red Cross. We heard the arguments. “You shouldn't expect an organization using a Christian symbol to accept a non-Christian symbol like the Star of David!” Yet, while the Red Star (or Shield) of David was rejected, the ICRC had long-accepted Arab nations into its organization and thereby approved the Red Crescent, a symbol derived from Islam.
Little progress was made towards the admission of Magen David Adom until Dr. Bernadine Healy became president of the American Red Cross. Though Israel was raised to the status of ‘observer’ within the ICRC due to American protests, Israel was still denied full membership. As a result, Healy notified ICRC that the American Red Cross would withhold all further dues until it ended its discrimination of Israel. However, Healy received much criticism from within the Red Cross, which ultimately culminated in a forced resignation. Healy stated that she was forced out of her position in part due to her stand for Israel.
A Black Chapter in Red Cross History
ICRC's disheartening silence regarding the Holocaust is another black chapter in the history of the organization. The Red Cross visit to the Terezin (Theresienstadt) ghetto northwest of Prague is a sad example. In 1944, in preparation for the Red Cross inspection, "residents" of Terezin were forced to “beautify” the ghetto to paint the image of Nazi "benevolence" and the existence of a thriving social and cultural atmosphere. All evidence of deplorable conditions, inhumane treatment, deportations to the Auschwitz death camps, and the rising death toll had all but "disappeared." Gardens, parks, and cafes had been erected in its stead. Red Cross reports found nothing out of the ordinary.
Meanwhile, the mass deportations and Nazi death camps were seemingly overlooked. However, decades later, WWII-era Red Cross documents revealed that the organization had indeed known about the persecution and systematic killing of the Jews, but chose to be silent and discount all reports of mass murder and genocide. This so-called international humanitarian organization not only chose silence, but chose to report erroneously about the Holocaust. Rather than alerting the world, they lied to the world.
The former president of the ICRC, Dr. Cornelio Sommaruga, publicly expressed regret for the actions and failures of the Red Cross during the Holocaust period. In an official statement released by the organization, Sommaruga wrote, “I feel it my duty to emphasize the lessons learned which analyze the weaknesses of the organization during World War II. These lessons are being applied today. This has led me to say how much I regret the possible mistakes of the Red Cross during the period when all of humanity failed, especially with regard to the Holocaust.”
Taking a Stand
Yet, are these lessons truly being applied today? The same old story persists as the Red Cross still looks unfavorably upon Israel and continues its age-old neglect. Gilad Shalit has been in captivity for over four years, and the Red Cross has done little to assist him and help secure his release. While they have attempted to visit Shalit, they fail to condemn Hamas and its countless human rights violations.
There cannot be a double standard in the treatment of Israel and the Jewish people. It is time to take a stand against the hypocrisy of the Red Cross and its counterparts. It is time to call for a return to the ideals of Henri Dunant and the founding roots of the Red Cross. It is time to advocate for support of Israel and the Jewish people once again. The time is now. JIJ along with partners will be gathering in Geneva, Switzerland to demonstrate against the ICRC and demand the release of Gilad Shalit at the UN Place des Nations at 15:00 on September 28, 2010 following the Human Rights Council three-week session scheduled to begin September 12.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement claim to be the world's largest impartial and neutral humanitarian network
Kidnapped Israeli solider, Gilad Shalit, has now been in captivity for over four years.
Magen David Adom (Red Shield or Star of David) was denied membership to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) until June 21, 2006
The gate into Terezin ghetto. In preparation for the Red Cross arrival, the Nazis initiated a "beautification program" of the ghetto to hide all evidence of the Holocaust
A Red Cross ad emphasizing its seven fundamental principles: Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality