Is the Red Cross anti-Semitic?

Elma Avraham was taken hostage from her home in Kubutz Nahal Oz when Hamas unleashed its terrorist attack upon Israel on Oct. 7. She was held in captivity for 50 days by the terrorist group. She’s recovering in an Israeli hospital where she is said to be in critical condition. During her captivity, Avraham was physically mistreated and didn’t have access to her medicine. Her daughter, Tal Amano, strongly criticized the International Red Cross, which she said refused, on multiple occasions, to help deliver critical medications to her elderly mother.

This criticism comes as the Red Cross has been increasingly under fire for its perceived bias against Israel. On Nov. 20, the president of a leading Israeli civil rights organization sent a letter to the Red Cross criticizing the group for its willingness to let its ambulances in Gaza be used to transport Hamas terrorists attempting to flee the Israel Defense Force. The Red Cross has also been repeatedly criticized by Israeli officials for its seeming hesitancy to demand that Hamas allow visits to check on the health of the hostages in Gaza.

But perhaps the most troubling finding about the Red Cross is that it may be complicit in helping Hamas operate in Al Shifa hospital and in the underground network of tunnels where the terrorists stored weapons and rockets and where they held hostages. There is even closed-circuit camera footage of hostages being forced into the hospital. Seth Mandel, writing in Commentary Magazine, asks important questions:

“The Red Cross was no stranger to Shifa. On November 6 and 7, for example, it boasted of ICRC caravans transporting supplies to Shifa and patients from Shifa. What did ICRC personnel see as they cleared out patients for transfer? More important, what did they pretend not to see? They had communication with and access to the hospital compound and its staff; to what purpose did they use this access?”

Earlier this year, The Red Cross boasted about its deep involvement with the Al Shifa hospital as part of its partnership with the Gaza Ministry of Health, run by Hamas. It’s difficult to believe the aid agency was ignorant of Hamas’ use of the hospital as a staging ground for terror and a place where the terrorist organization not only held hostages but murdered at least two. Especially after hearing the testimony of one doctor who admits that there were large sections of the hospital off limits to hospital staff. In a new development, many are questioning the Red Cross’ failure to transport premature Palestinian babies from the Al Nasir Children’s Hospital in Gaza City after IDF helped secure their safe evacuation.

Understandably, the Red Cross works in difficult and complex environments and is forced to negotiate, at times, with bad actors, in order to do its humanitarian work. Yet its supposed neutrality didn’t keep it from repeatedly criticizing Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas, attacks the Red Cross has yet to condemn.

A study by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice found that in their public pronouncements on social media since the Oct. 7, the Red Cross has been overwhelmingly biased against Israel. This is a similar posture to organizations like the United NationsDoctors without Borders, and Human Rights Watch, whose executive editor recently resigned and revealed a systemic bias against Israel.

These developments undermine trust in the mission of organizations that do much good work in difficult places around the world. NGOs are vital in providing relief to desperate people in a broken world. They shouldn’t serve as enablers of anti-Semitism.

More importantly, most media rely on the Red Cross and others for accurate information in reporting from Gaza, but the bias against Israel calls into questions the casualty numbers often quoted as gospel by many journalists, numbers that many, including officials in the Biden administration, have reason to doubt. This isn’t to say there isn’t a heartbreaking loss of life, but we should seek the truth and resist blaming Israel for the failures of Hamas to protect Palestinians. Christian organizations operating in Gaza should also resist the impulse to deny reality and to reflexively blame Israel. The IDF should be bound by the laws of war and must do its best to avoid civilian casualties, but its work to eliminate terrorist networks is just and right.

Though the Red Cross does much good work, this wouldn’t be the first time it looked away from Jewish suffering. In 1944, the organization initially denied the existence of concentration camps in Auschwitz, though records kept during World War II show its officials knew of their existence.

Faithful Christians can oppose terror and support Israel’s right to exist while also caring for the innocents in Gaza. But we must do so with moral clarity, resisting the generational impulse toward anti-Semitism. And we should demand moral clarity of the Red Cross.

Daniel Darling is director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His forthcoming book is Agents of Grace. He is also a bestselling author of several other books, including The Original Jesus, The Dignity Revolution, The Characters of Christmas, The Characters of Easter, and A Way With Words and the host of a popular weekly podcast, The Way Home. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College, has studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Angela have four children.