Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Red Cross and Red Crescent? No problem. Red Star of David? No way, say Arabs

A new symbol for neutral medical providers may be available soon for nations uncomfortable with either the Red Cross or Crescent. A red diamond is the preferred emblem.

This is something that has been in the Swiss news for weeks. I had been meaning to link an article or two, but never got around to it. Now the BBC has taken notice. Time to link. But first the Swiss-info version:
Switzerland is hosting an international meeting in Geneva to try to agree on a new emblem for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

It is hoped that the meeting will pave the way for a diplomatic conference, which would allow the Israeli first aid service to be globally recognised.

Founded in 1930, Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) is still not a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, an umbrella body for national first-aid societies, their federation and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).The Israeli society is holding fast to its emblem – a red Star of David. It refuses to operate under either of the two emblems currently in existence and recognised by the movement: the cross and the crescent.

Different attempts to overcome this impasse have always failed, essentially because of resistance from Arab countries.
How surprising is that. Using a religous symbol is fine for Muslims, but Jews aren't extended the same courtesy.

Now to the Beeb for the rest of the story, and a bit of background:

Some countries are reluctant to use either symbol and want a new emblem which has no religious connotations.

There is a proposal for a neutral emblem: a red diamond on a white background, called the Red Crystal.

If the talks in Geneva go well, the Red Crystal is likely to be adopted at a diplomatic conference later this year.

Most countries, including Israel and Arab states, appear to be in agreement after years of negotiations.

The IRC's traditional symbol, the red cross, has been a target of attack in the past in areas controlled by Islamic militants.

But the red cross was never designed to have religious signifance. It is a reversal of the Swiss flag and was intended to signify neutrality.

However, in the late 19th century, the Ottoman Empire began using the red crescent to protect its medical staff during war.

The crescent was recognised under the Geneva Conventions in 1929. [...]

UPDATE: The ICRC website also adddresses the complicated international aspects of adding another emblem; hint: think how difficult it must be to ammend international treaties in this day and age (links galore).