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In The News

July 2002

The following letter to the editor has appeared in the following publications:

  • Newport Daily News
  • Cranston Herald
  • Warwick Beacon
  • Chariho Times
  • The Observer

Dear Editor:

In recent months there has been some confusion about the stance of Israel's Magen David Adom, the American Red Cross, and the continued quest for membership in the International Red Cross movement. As the new Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Rhode Island, I wanted to address this issue and assure you that our policy has not changed --- the American Red Cross stands firmly alongside MDA.

Since Israel became a state over 50 years ago, Magen David Adom, which uses the Star of David as its identity, has been excluded from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies because the international body does not recognize this symbol.

The American Red Cross has supported the inclusion of Magen David Adom in the Federation strongly and unequivocally for over 25 years. We believe that the Federation's exclusion of Magen David Adom is unjust and must be changed. It is a betrayal of the Red Cross Fundamental Principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.

Our protest against this exclusion is so fervent and deep that our American Red Cross Board of Governors decided, in May 2000, to withhold our dues to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and our voluntary overhead contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross, until Magen David Adom is given all the rights and privileges of membership in our humanitarian movement.

Today, we continue this protest, having withheld a total of $10 million to date.

On April 9, 2002, we attended the first meeting of a new international working group that has been tasked with addressing this emblem issue. The group includes representatives from 10 national societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Federation).

The American Red Cross supports the working group's decision to proceed with a dual track approach to this issue: encouraging governments to move forward with a diplomatic conference to change international law regarding the emblems while simultaneously building confidence and operational collaboration between MDA and various components of the Movement. If governments fail to convene discussions on changes in the law, we hope that MDA's cooperative work will lead the ICRC and the Federation to interpret the rules to extend membership to MDA.

Although the original diplomatic conference to adopt this protocol was cancelled in October 2000 due to tensions in the Middle East, the current draft provides a foundation to allow MDA and the Eritrean Red Cross and Red Crescent Society to become members of the Federation with their current emblems intact.

The American Red Cross fully recognizes that, at this point, we only have a process for the recognition of MDA and not a guaranteed outcome. We will continue to withhold our dues from the Federation and our voluntary overhead contributions to the ICRC until an outcome is ensured.

In the meantime, we are working closely with MDA to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between our organizations. In February 2002, American Red Cross staff traveled to Israel to negotiate the terms of this MOU, focusing on collaboration in preparedness for Weapons of Mass Destruction attacks, international tracing and family reunification, organizational development and international humanitarian law dissemination.

The leaders of the American Red Cross have provided courage and leadership on this issue for over two decades, and are committed to a resolution and membership of our partner, MDA. On October 27th, 2001, the Board of Governors passed a resolution reaffirming their commitment to this policy.

Locally, all of us at the Rhode Island Red Cross have been busy providing assistance to fire victims, teaching water safety, lifeguarding, first aid and CPR, and raising the money necessary to fund these programs. However, clarifying the MDA issue has been a top priority for me since assuming the role of Executive Director, and I wanted to share with you what the American Red Cross is doing to promote inclusion of Israel's Magen David Adom.

I also welcome your comments and suggestions. If you would like to discuss the issue further, please feel free to contact me at our Chapter headquarters at 105 Gano Street, Providence, RI 02906. You can also reach me at 401.831.7700 x105 or via e-mail at [email protected]

Inclusion of MDA is, and will continue to be a vital issue for the American Red Cross. We will continue to stand firm until such a time as MDA is admitted as a member to our movement.


Barbara E. McGann, Rear Admiral (USN Ret.)
Executive Director, American Red Cross of Rhode Island

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