The International Movement of Red Cross and Crescent Societies relented and removed a symbol of Anti-Semitism which still pervades international organizations: Israel can now join this group. Over 180 countries are part of the movement; Israel is the only country that wants to be part of the organization and has not been allowed to join.
The symbol of Israel's national humanitarian organization (and its name) is Magen David Adom (Red Star of David). While Magen David Adom is often ready to send (and often sends) its aid teams all over the world, the participants were not protected by the Geneva Convention since they don't use one of the two recognized symbols. The American Red Cross has been pushing for a number of years to have Magen David Adom accepted as a full member. Arguments have been that the cross and crescent are not religious symbols but most of the world sees them. Just today on the radio, I heard a commentator state that the cross is derived from the Swiss flag (a symbol of political neutrality for over a hundred years). I can't remember the last time the Swiss flag included a Crescent: regardless of the origins of the humanitarian organization's cross, the addition of the crescent means that they are now religious symbols.
Things aren't so simple: you won't be seeing a red Star of David alone on a white flag anytime soon. A new emblem has been created--
a Red Crystal--to allow Israel's participation without using religious symbols fraught with memories of persecution.
The Diplomatic Conference of all states party to the Geneva Conventions voted yesterday in Geneva to recognize a new, crystal-shaped symbol for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement that willl enable the admittance of Magen David Adom - Israel's rescue, first-aid, and blood supply organization - along with the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Israel was the only state in the world that was not a member of the international lifesaving organization.
The adoption of this Third Additional Protocol of the Geneva Conventions enables MDA to continue to use its traditional red Star of David symbol in Israel and the territories. It will, however, use the red star inside a red diamond-shaped border on relief missions abroad, and can use an empty diamond frame whenever MDA staffers feel the star symbol places them at risk abroad.
I am heartened by the progress--albeit slow--on full acceptance of Israel into the international community. The cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian aid organizations allowed the international organization to relent on its long-standing objections to Israel's participation.
Maybe peace will come sooner than we think.