Philip Earl Steele

Israeli mistrust of the Red Cross is hardly contrived


As we approach the 11th week of the war begun with Hamas’s ghastly atrocities in the Negev, the Gazan jihadist organization continues to hold nearly 140 hostages, including the 9-month old Kfir Bibas and five octogenarians. All those being held require immediate medical attention, and yet there has been no contact whatsoever with them in the nightmarish conditions underground. The hostages’ families are in anguish, and it is feared the impasse to securing further releases may drag on. With nerves fraying on all sides, blame is being laid at the door of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Sarah Davies, the ICRC’s Public Relations Officer, persuasively insisted today that the ICRC is doing all it can within its means and charter of neutrality to access the hostages, help meet their needs – and facilitate their release.

UN Watch, however, has shown that the ICRC has not in fact been impartial. Its examination of X (Twitter) accounts officially belonging to the ICRC shows that the ICRC has betrayed a strong anti-Israeli bias, with the number of tweets condemning Israel being 11-fold that of tweets condemning Hamas.

The “convenience” of shouldering the Red Cross with responsibility for the hostages is not, therefore, entirely contrived. All the more so, as the ICRC does have a stained record: “In institutional terms, the ICRC … had failed to protect civilians and most notably the Jews persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime; it had failed to understand the uniqueness and inhumanity by responding to the outrageous with standard procedures; it had looked on helplessly and silently, not really trying—certainly not hard enough—to live up to the principle of humanity. … It failed as a humanitarian organization because it had lost its moral compass.”

Importantly, these are the words of the ICRC’s own president, Peter Maurer, spoken in 2015.

Despite President Maurer’s disarming honesty, two years later in Jerusalem, when he was addressing the Israel Council on Foreign Relations on “The ICRC and Its Mission: Past and Future”, he totally neglected, in his remarks on the Red Cross’s origins, to mention that its founder – Henry Dunant – was a Christian Zionist who boldly worked for the Jews’ restoration in Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, Dunant was publicly thanked (in absentia) for this at the First Zionist Congress in 1897 by no less than Theodor Herzl himself.

The omission of the ICRC’s president is therefore astounding. And should necessarily speak volumes to Israelis.

About the Author
Philip Earl Steele is an American historian based in Poland, specializing in the history of early Zionism. His recent book on Theodor Herzl, published by the Polish Academy of Sciences, is available in Open Access:
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