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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Red Cross founder was a Zionist (WSJ)

From Tomas Sandell in the Wall Street Journal:
Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Henri Dunant—the Red Cross founder who brought humanitarian laws to the battlefield. It is doubtful, though, whether the world's first Nobel Peace prize recipient would today still feel at home in his organization, or in similar human-rights bodies for that matter.

It's not just Dunant's Christian faith, which played an instrumental part in his humanitarian work, that would be at odds with today's post-Christian Red Cross officials. In the same small reformed church that commemorated his death last week, Dunant first learned about social responsibility as well as spiritual discipline.

But what would make Dunant really suspect in the eyes of modern human-rights activists is the fact that he was a Zionist. Already in 1867, almost 30 years before Theodor Herzl published "Der Judenstaat," his vision of a Jewish state, Dunant backed Jewish immigration to their ancestral homeland in Palestine. Dunant was one of only a few gentiles to attend the first Zionist congress in Basel in 1897. As was the case with other past Christian social reformers, like William Wilberforce 100 years before him and Martin Luther King 100 years after him, Dunant's support for the revival of the Jewish state went hand in hand with his work for other social causes.

What a paradox that Dunant's Red Cross would later develop cozy relationships with Israel's enemies. The Red Cross has hosted Hamas activists at their base in Jerusalem instead of clearly distancing itself from their murderous policies. Not until 2006 did Israel's Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) enjoy full membership, and that was only after the U.S. threatened to pull out of the world organization. Even now, Israeli rescue teams abroad would still need the host country's permission to wear the Red Star of David.
I think the author goes a little too far as he goes on the compare the Red Cross with the anti-Israel activities of the UN and HRW - it has problems but is not in the same league.

(To read the entire article you need to Google something like "Tomas Sandell Obsessed Red Cross" and then click on the WSJ link; it cannot be read in full outside of Google links.)