The Common Good

The ACLJ and the Goldstone Report on Gaza War Crimes

A few days ago I received a mass e-mail from the ACLJ. For those who don't get their daily dose of Christian talk radio, ACLJ stands for the American Center for Law and Justice. Think of the ACLJ as the conservative Yin to the liberal ACLU Yang. Most of their mass e-mails have to do with issues like opposing abortion and gay marriage. For the most part, their policy positions are reasonable within the context of a healthy debate. I think the ACLJ is at its best when it addresses freedom of speech issues for Christians in America and around the world. (For the record, I strongly support their opposition to certain resolutions that would give Islam a special status for protection against defamation.)

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Having said that, the last e-mail they sent me was particularly disturbing. With a subject line meant to imbue a sense of panic, "Our sovereignty must not be forfeited," the e-mail went on to describe just how exactly the U.S. and Israel are being subject to the "whims of radicals around the world." According to the ACLJ:

The latest example is an outrageous attack by the Palestinian Authority -- not even an actual nation -- calling for Israeli soldiers (some who hold dual U.S. citizenship) to be convicted of ''war crimes'' simply for fulfilling their duty, defending their countrymen against attacks by the Hamas terrorists!

Notice the quotation marks surrounding "war crimes." Quotation marks can be very revealing because they're often meant to contradict the very words in between the quotation marks. As in this case, the ACLJ wants its readers to believe that the "war crimes" Israeli soldiers have been accused of aren't real war crimes, they're imaginary war crimes.

According to the official report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, also known as the Goldstone Report, here are some of the imaginary war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers while fulfilling their duty during the war in Gaza last December:

  1. Deliberate attacks against police stations and hospitals
  2. The use of white phosphorous munitions
  3. At least 11 eleven incidents in which Israeli forces launched direct attacks against civilians with lethal outcome
  4. Attacks on the foundations of civilian life in Gaza: destruction of industrial infrastructure, food productions, water installations, sewage treatment, and housing
  5. Between 1,387 and 1,417 civilians killed

The Goldstone Report is 575 pages long and meticulous in its detail. Contrary to popular belief, the report also condemns Hamas for its role in the conflict -- as it should. It should also be noted that Mr. Goldstone is neither an Islamic radical nor is he a crazy anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist; he's a South African Jew who supports Israel and its right to exist. Even so, Mr. Goldstone reports:

From the facts ascertained in all the above cases, the Mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of willful killings and willfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility. It also finds that the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of Palestinian civilians is a violation of the right to life.

That the ACLJ would relegate such well-documented human rights abuses to the status of imaginary -- even elevating them to the status of duty -- is disturbing on many levels. What the ACLJ is effectively saying in this e-mail, howbeit ever so subtly, is that Christians should support the actions of Israeli soldiers and -- wait for it -- actively lobby their legislators to grant them immunity even if there is evidence found against them.

The irony here is that while the ACLJ markets itself as a defender of biblical morality, the intentional destruction of civilian infrastructure is a clear violation of the very scriptures they say they are defending -- even when committed by the nation of Israel (See Deuteronomy 20:19). They also conveniently forget that the Old Testament prophets were constantly condemning the children of Israel for their violence and oppression.

How ironic that the very prophets they quote to justify any and every act of violence committed by Israeli soldiers were the ones who spoke the loudest in their day against God's people trusting in their military might. Then again, maybe this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. When poor theology and blind nationalism win, biblical morality loses.

portrait-aaron-taylorAaron D. Taylor is the author of Alone with A Jihadist: A Biblical Response To Holy War. To learn more about Aaron's missionary work and his travels around the world, go to www.aarondtaylor.com.

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