Background: Israel FM Official Baker drops ball on Sommaruga remark
Aaron Lerner Date: 24 April 2002
When UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the composition of his
fact-finding team on Monday night, the inclusion of the former president of
the International Red Cross, Cornelio Sommaruga raised an obvious question:
what role did Sommaruga have in continuing the Red Cross's refusal to accept
the Magen David symbol?
When Sommaruga's comparison of the Magen David to the swastika was raised
yesterday, Israeli Foreign Minister legal advisor Alan Baker rushed to
defend Sommaruga, saying that the remark was taken out of context and that
the swastika refernce was to an "Indian symbol."
Here is the context:
Addressing a meeting of the International Red Cross (IRC) Dr. Bernadine
Healy, the brave president of the American Red Cross, attacked the IRC, then
headed by Sommaruga, for refusing to accept the Magen David Adom.
Healy stood alone.
Sommaruga defended the policy.
In fact, later that day he told Healy that "if we're going to have the
Shield of David, why would we not have to accept the swastika?"
When the International Red Cross claimed that Charles Krauthammer's report
on this story was incorrect, Dr. Healy went public with a letter to the
editor published in the Washington Post (and its affiliate, The
International Herald Tribune on 4 April 2002), stating that:
"It is unfortunate that the International Committee of the Red Cross
mischaracterized, at Mr. Krauthammer's expense, my meeting with the then
president of the international committee, Cornelio Sommaruga.
Mr. Krauthammer's account of Mr. Sommaruga's statement was poignantly
accurate - in essence, if the red Shield of David, why not the swastika?
Sadly, his statement was made without context. Only after I expressed my
astonishment did he invoke Sri Lanka. . ."
Bottom line: The context of the Magen David story is that Sommaruga is
permanently stained for helping to continue the anti-Israel ban on the Magen
David during his watch.
And this has to cost.
Because if it doesn't cost then only the truly remarkably moral and brave,
such as Dr. Healy, will take the high road rather than join the others on
the easy anti-Israel path.
And all the holocaust memorial speeches in the world can't make up for that.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Baker - and many other Oslophiles in the Foreign
Ministry - apparently doesn't appreciate this fundamental: when you are spat
at and you claim it is raining the spitting will never stop.
Even taken in an immediate context, Baker's move was a mistake. After all,
if Sommaruga remains on the team, it is in Israel's interest that he should
feel pressure to prove, via his performance in Jenin, that the anti-Israel
charge against him is unfounded.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director
IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-5480092
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