Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Why Won't the Red Cross Help the Hostages? (Judean Rose)

Disclaimer: the views expressed here are solely those of the author, weekly Judean Rose columnist Varda Meyers Epstein.

When 84-year-old hostage Alma Avraham was released by Hamas, she was barely alive. Her daughter, Tal Amnu described her condition. “I can say on behalf of my mother that she arrived with a pulse of 40 with a temperature of 48 degrees,” Amnu said. “Unconscious. All injured.”

Amnu added that family members had twice met with Red Cross representatives, who twice rejected their request to get medications to her mother.

On December 4, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Mirjana Spoljaric, visited the Gaza Strip. She was there, ostensibly, to coordinate visits by Red Cross personnel to hostages held by Hamas. In a video released by Spoljaric following the visit however, she said almost nothing about hostages, but spoke at length about the plight of Gaza civilians. The hostages abducted by Hamas from Israel during the October 7 attack received only a brief mention by Spoljaric near the end of the two-minute video. 

On December 14, Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Spoljaric in person, in an attempt to persuade her to deliver a box of medications for the hostages. What followed was a circular argument, Spoljaric saying, “It won’t work,” and Netanyahu saying, “Why don’t you try?”

“It’s not going to work, because the more public pressure we seemingly (air quotes) would do, the more they would shut the door.”

“I’m not so sure.”

“Yes, they would. They would with . . .”

“Well, why don’t you try?”



♬ original sound - MRB

A week earlier Roni and Simona Steinbrecher met with the Red Cross. Their daughter Doron had been kidnapped on October 7 and she requires daily medication. Roni and Simona asked the Red Cross to intervene and help them get the medication to their daughter. Instead, they received a lecture. “Think about the Palestinian side,” the representatives of the Red Cross told Simona. “It’s hard for the Palestinians, they’re being bombed.”

Simona left in a state of shock over the brusque dismissal and reprimand. “We left there as we entered: without new information, without something new, and with disappointment,” said Steinbrecher.

Steinbrecher’s shock is understandable. And still, the Red Cross has been disappointing Jews for a very long time, such as during the Holocaust. In February 1945, the president of the Red Cross sent the following message to a U.S. official.  "Concerning the Jewish problem in Germany we are in close and continual contact with the German authorities."

Note the Nazi terminology employed by the Red Cross president: “Jewish problem.” When they saw Jews, the Red Cross didn’t see a people undergoing extermination. Like Hitler, they saw the Jews as a problem, a kind of vermin that needed to go away.

The Red Cross was aware of the Nazi atrocities as early as August 1942, but did nothing to intervene, and certainly did nothing to ensure better conditions for the Jews in the camps. Roger Du Pasquier, head of the IRC’s Information Department at that time explained that the Red Cross couldn’t do anything to help the millions of Jews slaughtered by the Nazis. His excuse? The Red Cross couldn’t help, because if they helped, they would have been deprived of all opportunities to help (emphasis added):

No relief action of any sort by the Red Cross in Germany or the occupied territories could have been undertaken without the approval of the authorities . . . Conforming to the letter, if not to the spirit of the Geneva Conventions . . . the Nazi government permitted the ICRC and its delegates to act on behalf of the several millions of prisoners held in the Stalags and Oflags. It refused, however, to allow any intervention on the part of the Red Cross in the concentration camps . . .

 . . . In the face of such an obstinate refusal which covered up the horrifying reality, about which one was then ill-informed, the ICRC certainly could have made itself heard; it could have protested publicly and called on the conscience of the world. By doing so it would, however, have deprived itself of any possibility of acting in Hitler's Empire; it would have deliberately given up what chances there still remained to it to help, even in a restricted manner, the victims of the concentration camp regime. But, above all, it would have made it impossible for it to continue its activity on behalf of millions of military captives. For the Nazi leaders viewed this activity with suspicion which they would have ruthlessly suppressed on the slightest pretext.

The Red Cross was not “ill-informed” at that time. By then, they knew about the atrocities and the camps, and had for several years. In other words, Du Pasquier lied. The Red Cross knew about the atrocities and the camps, and they did nothing. They did nothing, and pretended they did nothing because if they did something, they would have lost the opportunity to do something. 

Or something like that.

The script, as we saw in Netanyahu’s meeting with Spoljaric, has not changed since that time. Deliver a box of medications to the hostages? “It won’t work. The more pressure on Hamas, the more they’ll shut the door.”

Well, look girlie, the door is already shut. Your job is to open it. Deliver those medications. At least try, as Netanyahu repeatedly told her.

Spoljaric ran out of buts and the meeting was adjourned with nearly nothing accomplished. Why do I say “nearly nothing?” Because at least the damning exchange of a Red Cross president refusing to deliver a box of medications to hostages was captured on video for posterity. Not that it matters. The Red Cross has always been blatant in its hatred of the Jewish people.

Whereas the Nazis were defeated, the Red Cross continued on its merry way in its campaign against the Jews. It was not until 2006 that the Red Cross admitted Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) into its ranks. And still, the star was a no. The (Muslim) Red Crescent Society? Sure. The Red Lion and Sun Society of Iran (don't ask)? Sure, why not? But not a Jewish Red Star. And definitely not Israel.

They would neither parade that star symbol, nor give it validity. Essentially, none of this Jewish star stuff. 

And that is/was the crux of the matter. The star. The Red Cross had no problem accepting a Muslim crescent emblem in relevant countries, but the Jewish Star of David was disallowed.

What excuse did the Red Cross have for not granting legitimacy to the Magen David Adom all those years, from 1930 to 2006, when it finally succumbed? According to Wikipedia, “concerns of territorialism.”

What, exactly, does “territorialism” mean in regard to Israel? It means that the Jews cannot have their own land, and cannot have their own symbol for their own exclusive use. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Magen David Adom was boycotted by the Red Cross, “which refused to grant the organization membership because ‘it was [...] argued that having an emblem used by only one country was contrary to the principles of universality.’"

Even today, the Red Star of David, well—you can use it, but it’s not recognized as a protected symbol outside Israel. Israel is officially not protected. Israel has to use a phony, all-purpose Red Crystal symbol the Red Cross dreamed up so they wouldn’t have to admit the Jewish star:

For over 50 years, Israel requested the addition of a red Star of David, arguing that since Christian and Muslim emblems were recognized, the corresponding Jewish emblem should be as well. This emblem has been used by Magen David Adom (MDA), or Red Star of David, but it is not recognized by the Geneva Conventions as a protected symbol. The Red Star of David is not recognized as a protected symbol outside Israel; instead the MDA uses the Red Crystal emblem during international operations in order to ensure protection. Depending on the circumstances, it may place the Red Star of David inside the Red Crystal, or use the Red Crystal alone.

In her March 2000 letter to the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times, Bernadine Healy, then president of the American Red Cross, wrote: "The international committee's feared proliferation of symbols is a pitiful fig leaf, used for decades as the reason for excluding the Magen David Adom—the Shield (or Star) of David." In protest, the American Red Cross withheld millions in administrative funding to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies since May 2000.

Some were excited when Israel’s MDA was finally admitted into the IRCRC. They crowed over this perceived sign of acceptance. They were happy to compromise on the emblem, which was just a symbol, after all. 

From the Forward (emphasis added):

Chalk up a victory for the Star of David — or, as it is called in Hebrew, the magen David or “Shield of David.” Long boycotted by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which refused to grant Israel’s “Red Shield of David” organization membership in its ranks because it did not recognize the medical and humanitarian use of this Jewish symbol alongside the Christian cross and the Muslim crescent, the magen David was finally voted in at a Red Cross meeting in Geneva last week. It’s true that it will have to appear, on Israeli ambulances and elsewhere, on a smaller scale than the cross and crescent and within a diamond-shaped “crystal,” but compromise is the stuff of politics, and the Geneva decision was nothing if not political.

In hindsight we can say that this was no victory. That we should never have compromised on our emblem, our safety, or our legitimacy. We are speaking of an organization that will not help  hostages, yet uses the word “human” twice in its mission statement:

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the largest humanitarian network in the world. Its mission is to alleviate human suffering, protect life and health, and uphold human dignity, especially during armed conflicts and other emergencies.

Are the Jews then, not human? If you prick us, do we not bleed? Is the suffering of our hostages not worthy of alleviation; their lives and health not worthy of protection. Do our hostages not deserve to have their dignity upheld?

Spoljaric—and Du Pasquier before her—would never say it out loud in mixed company, but in their heads, the answer is a big, fat, loud, emphatic NO. Because to the people of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Jews are not human. In their eyes, Jews are monsters. It’s what they tell themselves to justify their refusal to help the October 7 hostages in any way.

It’s what the Red Cross as much as told Roni and Simona Steinbrecher when they pleaded for help to get medication to their daughter. “Think about the Palestinian side,” they were told, “It’s hard for the Palestinians, they’re being bombed.”

The IRCRC has representatives in Gaza. They know what happened on October 7, and they do not care. To them, just as in Nazi Germany, Jews are a subhuman species, undeserving of human rights of any kind. Jewish suffering doesn’t touch them. The rape and torture of Jews doesn’t touch them. They don’t feel it because “Jews are not human,” they would say if they could. “Jews are monsters.”

Why would the Red Cross help Israeli hostages? The Jews, after all, are a “problem.” Perhaps they are not even human—so their suffering doesn’t count, and they don’t deserve dignity.

Because they’re Jews. 

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