Well, after a long struggle, the Israeli aid organization Magen David Adom (Red Star Of David) has finally won acceptance in its quest for affiliation with the International Red Cross, but only after making a major concession. Its symbol will not be the Red Star of David they have used since their inception, but a “red crystal” — a red diamond shape, or a square standing on corner.
This is nothing less than a disgrace to the International Red Cross.
When the Red Cross was founded, it chose its name and symbol by reversing the Swiss flag, a white cross with equal arms on a field of red. This was widely accepted around the world, until it started to work in the Muslim world. There, it seemed, that a lot of Muslims saw the Cross (even though it was clearly NOT a crucifix, which traditionally has the vertical bar considerably longer than the horizontal one) as an unwelcome reminder of the hated Crusaders. So, as a concession to their tender egos, the Red Cross started allowing the use of a red crescent.
Now here is a key point: the Red Cross was derived from the Swiss flag, which was derived from the Christian crucifix. So it is two steps removed from the religious symbol. The Red Crescent was taken directly from the Muslim symbol, so it is only one step removed from the religious connotation. Many Muslim nations bear a crescent on their flag in recognition of Islam.
The Star of David is a universal symbol of Judaism. It is also a key portion of the flag of the nation of Israel, and is borne by all official buildings, vehicles, and other places where a national symbol would be appropriate. Its use is pretty much a perfect parallel for the Islamic use of the crescent.
Yet it is the Muslims in the Red Cross who blocked the admission of the Magen David Adom for so long. They chose to use the chosen symbol as their rallying cry, but that was just the most convenient excuse: it was the idea that an Israeli organization would gain any sort of official recognition and sanction that drove them up the wall. And to do so under a symbol that they most often associate with Zionist flags, tanks, and warplanes was to add insult to the injury — and we all know how incredibly fragile the Islamic ego is to the tiniest perceived slight.
But somehow, principle and reason and decency finally prevailed. The cynic in me suspects that the actions of the American Red Cross — which withheld millions in funding to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in protest — finally hurt enough. They played “bad cop” while Magen David Adom played “good cop,” participating and supporting Red Cross missions around the world with nary a word of complaint.
(Well, with maybe a few choice words of complaint. Based on my own experience with Jews, “suffering in silence” is not something they do very well. In fact, they’ve made “kvetching” an art form. But I digress.)
I’m glad for the Magen David Adom, who have done some truly amazing things over the course of their history. But I hope they don’t give up the fight to use their original symbol — the red Star Of David — alongside the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and Red Lion With Sun that Iran used for over 50 years, and still reserves the right to use.