The ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] Betrays Its Role — What HaAretz Refused to Print

During the Holocaust the ICRC had information about the ongoing Holocaust early in the war. It knew that systematic massacres of Jews were going on on the Eastern Front. It knew this from Swiss physicians working to succor the German Wehrmacht troops [see below].  The ICRC knew this and refused to divulge it. The ICRC, a semi-independent committee under the auspices of the Swiss government, actually took a vote. And the majority voted NOT to divulge this information. Thereby the ICRC left millions of Jews under Nazi occupation in the dark as to what plans the Nazis had in store for them. The excuse of those who voted against releasing the information was that doing so would violate the ICRC’s principle of neutrality. But we see nowadays that the ICRC violates its neutrality day and night — when it has to do with harming Israel. The latest ICRC carpet bombing attack on Israel took place a few weeks ago in the pages of the Jerusalem Post. One Anton Camen writes on behalf of the ICRC that Jews have no right under international law to move into Judea-Samaria, the heartland of ancient Israel.

After WW II and the Holocaust, new laws were added to the laws of war. These new laws took up the problems of the sufferings and persecution of civilians during the war. These laws were embodied in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 49 of Geneva IV takes up the mass transfers/deportations of population, especially Jews (although it does not name them), to occupied Poland where the Germans had set up mass murder camps, most notably Oswiecim (Auschwitz) and Treblinka.

Article 49 takes up the problem of mass forced transfers/deportations of civilian population. Paragraph 1 of Article 49 states:

Art. 49. Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.

It is reasonable to assume in regard to any document, all the more so a legal one, that words –particularly technical terms– retain their meaning throughout. Hence, the “forcible transfers” and “deportations” of Paragraph 1 of this article remain unchanged in meaning in Paragraph 6 of the same article.

The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

The word “transfer” is ordinarily a transitive verb, for the grammarians. So how could it apply to Jews who voluntarily, even eagerly, migrate into parts of Judea and Samaria that were occupied by the kingdom of Transjordan (later Jordan) between 1948 and 1967?

It is my view that transfer and deportation are largely synonymous and always connote the application of force or coercion. This synonymous nature of the two is even more obvious in French in which the mass expulsions of Jews during the Holocaust/WW II to the labor and death camps are customarily called déportations.

I think that Art 49:1 sufficiently defines the meaning of transfer for the purpose of the whole article. The authors of Geneva 4 most likely did not think it necessary to repeat the adjective “forcible” in the subsequent paragraphs of Article 49. Moreover, trying to claim a non-forcible form of transfer is seeking to force a definition.

Moreover, since Article 49 and indeed all of Geneva Convention 4 are concerned to protect those upon whom forbidden actions would be practiced, then the people upon whom transfer and deportation are practiced are the ones to whom Article 49 extends its protection, the transferees and deportees. This does not include the pre-war residents of the occupied territory who are protected in various ways by other parts of Geneva Convention 4.

The ICRC changed its interpretation of Geneva 4:49:6 after the Six Day War in order to  fit in with the mood of international anti-Israel hatred. This is pointed out in the letter below sent by me to HaAretz but not published. The unpublished letter below applies just as well to Anton Camen’s recent op ed in the Jerusalem Post as it does to Jakob Kellenberger’s piece in HaAretz in 2002:


14 October 2002

Mr David Landau, Editor
HaAretz English edition

Dear Mr Landau,

Organized humanitarianism in our times is a sham more often than not. This is easily proven regarding the International Committee of the Red Cross which collaborated with the Nazi policy of mass murdering Jews. During the Holocaust, “international law” prevented the ICRC –or so its apologists claim– from campaigning against the Holocaust — or even announcing to the world that it was going on. Today, only 57 years  after the murder camps were shut down, the ICRC again uses “international law” as a pretext for endangering Jewish life and rights. The “international law” argument against Jewish rights to live in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, was made by Jakob Kellenberger, the ICRC chief (HaAretz 8 October 2002). He is wrong for at least two reasons:

1–Judea, Samaria, and Gaza are not occupied territory, although  parts may be under martial law (used in democratic countries in times of civil disorder or  rebellion). All of these areas are historically Jewish and were recognized as parts of the Jewish National Home by the San Remo conference in 1920. Neither the UN partition recommendation (1947) nor subsequent armistice accords changed this;

2- Migration of Jews to these areas is not “transfer” as banned by Geneva Convention IV (1949). These Jewish “settlers” are freely moving, whereas the “transfer” clause referred to mass deportation as Jews experienced during the Holocaust which the ICRC did not object to at the  time.

The book La Croix Rouge Internationale (Paris: PUF 1959), written by the ICRC legal advisor, Henri Coursier, explains  the transfer clause of Geneva IV as a prohibition of “deportations” (pp 42-43), the usual French term for the transfer of Jews from various countries to the murder camps in Poland. Since Geneva IV concerns the protection of civilians, it could not very well forbid voluntary migration of civilians, which is the essence of the Jewish settlement movement in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

On the other hand, ICRC and Kellenberger themselves violate basic principles of Red Cross activity laid down by Jean Pictet, 1- equality 2-neutrality. As to the first, would anyone deny that ICRC gives preferential treatment to Arabs over Jews? As to neutrality, doesn’t the ICRC give political support to the Arab side by now falsely interpreting Geneva IV as forbidding Jewish settlement over the green line, as well as in other ways? Rather than accusing Israel, the ICRC should be living up to the avowed Red Cross principles.


Elliott A Green

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quote about ICRC’s connection with Swiss medical personnel on the Eastern Front:

Pendant l’hiver 1941-42, un certain nombre de médecins et d’infirmières suisses partirent par ailleurs en mission humanitaire sur le Front de l’Est, notamment à Smolensk, sous les auspices de la Croix-Rouge suisse, et avec la bénédiction des autorités allemandes. Ces médecins et ces infirmières furent déployés dans les hôpitaux militaires allemands, pour faire face à un afflux massif de grands blessés de guerre. Après la guerre, ces hommes et ces femmes furent accusés d’avoir trahi l’idéal et la neutralité de la Croix-Rouge[22].   [lien]

About the Author
Elliott A. Green is a writer, researcher, and translator living in Jerusalem. He has published in Nativ, Midstream, the Jerusalem Post, and other publications.