Israel ambulances - Moti Milrod - August 30 2011
Israeli ambulances with the Magen David Adom symbol. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Two weeks ago, Kfar Adumim’s ambulance broke down and was sent to be repaired. It came back in working order, but something important was missing: The red Magen David, the symbol of Magen David Adom, which a few years ago added to its name the title “Israel’s national rescue service.”

It turned out that this was no innocent mistake and that MDA had agreed a few years ago to abandon one of Israel’s national symbols.

In 2005, an unfortunate agreement was signed between MDA and the International Red Cross under which MDA was accepted into the international organization. This was presented as an enormous accomplishment, but its practical significance is merely that MDA can participate in international conferences and get reimbursement from the IRC when it provides aid abroad. Its primary importance was that MDA could now present itself to the world as a respectable rescue organization.

The problem is that a condition for Israel’s acceptance was an agreement signed with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society − a condition that was hidden from the public and even from the MDA board of directors.

The terms of this agreement turned membership in the IRC into a humiliating, almost anti-Semitic embarrassment because one of the conditions was that the red Magen David would not become a recognized international symbol, and it would be forbidden to use it anywhere in the world except Israel.

In other words, the red cross − yes. The red crescent − yes. Even the red lion, the symbol of the Iranian rescue organization is fine. Only the red Magen David gets a no. Instead, Israeli ambulances that operate outside Israel’s sovereign borders will be marked with a red diamond shape, a new “universal” symbol, that no rescue organization other than Israel is obligated to use.

Moreover, MDA committed in the agreement not to operate in Judea and Samaria or in East Jerusalem, where the Palestinian Red Crescent is allowed to function. Sick and injured Jews in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem will have to be evacuated by some other first responders, or at least those not bearing the MDA symbol. Sovereignty in Jerusalem?

The Magen David as a national symbol? Who cares, as long as we are part of an international rescue organization.

Actually, there isn’t much advantage to belonging to the IRC. Its financial support is minimal; even senior MDA officials say so. Nor will the IRC give MDA any services it hadn’t gotten from it before. The Red Cross covenant obligates it to supply humanitarian services to countries that are not IRC members.

Even if MDA was a private rescue service it would not, by law, be permitted to differentiate between Israeli citizens based on their place of residence. Certainly this is true of MDA, which is a public organization, supported by the Health Ministry, that is authorized by the government to charge fees from those evacuated by ambulance and which solicits donations from Jews all over the world − who give because it is “Israel’s national rescue service.”

One would hope that all these generous donors immediately stop funding the organization, which has long ago stopped being national and has started to dance to the flute of our enemies, who agree to accept us into their ranks as long as we hide our identity, abandon our sovereignty and let everyone stomp on our national pride.

At MDA they say that they agreed to erase the Magen David from all ambulances that do not officially belong to the organization, irrespective of their geographic location; they will start with ambulances operating within “little Israel” and get to Judea and Samaria in the end.

This wretched agreement was signed under a different foreign minister and a different MDA management. Given that so many involved parties are not comfortable with this humiliating cooperation, it’s time to renounce it.