American Red Cross erases Palestine from database

The American Red Cross was hosting a blood drive at my university today so a friend and I stopped by. I would find out an hour later that my identity as a Palestinian was unverifiable.

Before donating any blood, nurses drew a blood sample and, following standard procedure, asked me a series of questions about my medical and travel history. When asked if I had traveled out of the United States within the last three years, I told the nurse that I had spent time in the Gaza Strip in Palestine. She couldn’t find it in the database.

For the next fifteen minutes, the nurse searched every plausible variation of the words Palestine and Gaza and even searched entire geographical regions.

“I remember seeing it there before,” she told me just as she called a field office for technical support.

By this time, she had committed the details of my travels to memory. “The donor flew to Cairo and took a four hour car ride to Gaza, in Palestine. He stayed there for four weeks and then returned, by car, to Cairo.”

The call lasted for quite a while. The nurse was put on hold repeatedly as managers on the other end of the line searched for themselves.

After just under an hour of waiting, the Red Cross’s support line instructed the nurse to list my travel destination as Israel. I had finally been verified to donate blood — but only at the expense of my own personal, cultural, ethnic, and political identity.

According to the nurse, the Red Cross updated the software system used by its mobile units a few months ago. One of its changes apparently includes the removal of Palestine from its database of international travel destinations.

I doubt that the Red Cross no longer recognizes Palestine or its people but in today’s climate, when Presidential hopefuls liberally deny Palestine’s existence and international news agencies such as the BBC actively defend their censorship of the word Palestine, I’d be hard-pressed to rule this conclusion out completely.

The Red Cross has an extensive history of working with the Ramallah-based Palestine Red Crescent Society (equivalent to the American Red Cross) and has even gone as far as pledging financial support to hospitals in Gaza. This non-recognition is therefore rather surprising. But it is also quite telling of how far reaching the effects of an illegal occupation can be.

There are 12 comments

  1. Noelle Clearwater

    I am saddened to hear this news, Sami. I am wondering if it has something to do with monetary support or if the Red Cross is actually experiencing political pressure to have done such a thing. Certainly Palestine must be recognized in the database of this organization and so many others. I am sorry that this happened to you.

  2. M.A .El Batta

    If the charities in the USA are so manipulated by the zionists , one can only imagine what’s the case with big corporations, and even more with the corporate media.

  3. Stephanie

    Hi, I work for the American Red Cross in their biomedical services division. I am are sorry for your experience and are very appreciative that you stayed and donated blood, a truly lifesaving gift. I wanted to let you know that the American Red Cross uses the U.S. Government’s Health Information for International Travel reference tool as the source document to assess countries with a malaria risk. The guide does not include all countries in the world, but does include all countries with a malarial risk. There has been no recent change in the list and we apologize if our staff was mistaken about that fact. As you are aware and highlighted in your blog post, the Palestinian Red Crescent is a fully recognized member of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network. Thank you again for taking time to share the gift of life with others.

    Stephanie Millian, Director of Biomedical Communication
    American Red Cross

  4. Carol Anne Grayson

    Dear members of the press and information section (World Health Organisation),
    As someone that has written award winning research in the area of blood safety I was shocked and disgusted to read the account on the link provided of a Palestinian donating blood in the US at a Red Cross Facility and having to deny his heritage of being Palestinian. I shall now check out the situation in the UK where I live. See this quote… “The American Red Cross was hosting a blood drive at my university today so a friend and I stopped by. I would find out an hour later that my identity as a Palestinian was unverifiable”

    For a Palestinian to have to deny their identity to donate and be placed under the category “Israel” is extremely insensitive and surely against their human rights and may well put some Palestinians off donating blood altogether. At a time where shortages can exist and blood drives are publized to increase the number of donors we must value every donor regardless of nationality.

    America’s categorization policy does not refect inclusivity and diversity and frankly if I was in was in that person’s shoes I would be taking a case for discrimination regarding the categorization of nationality.

    I request that the WHO look at this issue as a matter of urgency and issue guidelines for recognition of Palestinian nationals as this problem may be occuring elsewhere. I believe you should act now to avoid Palestinians boycotting blood drives!

    I look forward to the response of the WHO


    Yours sincerely

    Carol Anne Grayson (Writer/researcher/activist on global health/human rights)

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