MDA symbol on ambulances in Yesha still unresolved
October 4, 2011 | Jewish Tribune
JERUSALEM – The controversy over the alleged removal of the familiar red Star of David logo representing the Magen David Adom (MDA) first aid organization from ambulances operating in Judea and Samaria apparently has not been resolved.Not for the first time, the issue came to the fore this past summer when Israeli media reported that the traditional MDA logo on ambulances in Judea and Samaria had been replaced by a white, six-pointed star in a red circle.
Yesha (Judea and Samaria) Council Chairman Dani Dayan accused Israel’s premiere emergency medical service of caving to political pressure, which MDA denied.
“It is quite clear that the reason is political,” Dayan asserted in a Jerusalem Post column at the time.
Approached by the Jewish Tribune for an update, Dayan said he was now trying to resolve the issue quietly rather than speaking with media.
Yonatan Yagodovsky, director of MDA’s fundraising department, told the Tribune in a telephone interview: “I don’t know what there is to resolve…. MDA will continue to use its emblem and logo, and no one ever asked us to take it off – not now, not in 2006 when we were accepted to the International Red Cross and not before that.”
Hicham Hassan, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC’s) public relations officer for the Near and Middle East, told the Tribune in an email:
“The ICRC is informed of the MDA’s decision. The ICRC is not involved in the decisions taken by the MDA regarding the marking of its ambulances and did not make such a request to the MDA. The ICRC continues to support the MDA's efforts in providing medical assistance and other humanitarian services to all those who need them.”
As evidenced in MDA’s archives, for decades the international organization refused to accept MDA because of its logo.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in Geneva in 2005 by MDA and the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) before Israel’s acceptance into ICRC in 2006. It was agreed that Israeli ambulances operating outside of the country could sport a new symbol: the red crystal – a red square frame tilted at a 45-degree angle, either with or without a Star of David inside. MDA was permitted to maintain its traditional symbol on ambulances inside Israel.
“MDA operates ambulances in our stations throughout the country, including Judea and Samaria,” Yagodovsky stated. “All the ambulances operating from MDA stations carry the MDA logo without any change. In general, there are ambulances that are close to the end of the service; we call them senior ambulances. They’ve been in service five or six years and they operate inside and outside the Green Line…. Since these ambulances are operated by councils and team members of the councils, they are not MDA ambulances. Therefore, we have decided to mark them in a different way.”
One Yesha resident with connections to MDA, who asked to remain anonymous, challenged the notion that the so-called senior ambulances are not MDA property, claiming that they’re operated by MDA volunteers and the gas and expenses are paid for by MDA. In fact, MDA is listed on the ownership papers, he said.
“When the Jewish community was in Gaza we had ambulances stationed there,” Yagodovsky said. “Since Israel is no longer there, there are no MDA ambulances there. Parts of Judea and Samaria under the Palestinian Authority [PA], like Zone A and B, according to the Oslo agreement, have ambulances and services that are under the PA. But we do have service in Judea and Samaria on a daily basis, including Palestinians if they need treatment. We have a good working relationship with the PA.
“All ambulances stationed and operating from MDA, no matter where, carry the same emblem of MDA as they used to. Those operated by regional and local councils, including moshavim [cooperative farms], kibbutzim and settlements, and not operated by MDA will have a new emblem that will include the Star of David. There will be back-up from our station. It’s an operational issue that turned out to be political, unfortunately.”
According to a column in Ha’aretz last August, titled ‘Israel forfeited national pride when it joined the IRCS,’ “the terms of this agreement turned membership in the IRC into a humiliating, almost antisemitic 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….
“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.”
Hadas Ziv, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, defended MDA in a letter of response to the newspaper, saying:
“Since, according to the laws of the organization, only one national rescue association is allowed to operate in any given area, it was agreed that the Red Crescent would operate in the West Bank….
“MDA is the first institutionalized public body in Israel that operates according to international law also in areas that relate to the occupation, and that is the reason why it is attacked by right-wing elements.”
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel receives financial support from New Israel Fund (NIF), and it is one of several groups under the NIF umbrella that influenced the United Nations’ Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of having violated international law during Operation Cast Lead. Its author, Judge Richard Goldstone, later retracted his conclusions, acknowledging factual misinformation.