Winters bites Christiansen

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Since Drew Christiansen assumed the editorship of America from the ousted Tom Reese in 2005, the venerable Jesuit magazine has taken a notably harder line on Israel. This has led to sharp attacks not only from Jewish but also from Catholic quarters–including the late Richard John Neuhaus, Prof. Bruce Chilton, Msgr. Dennis L. Mikulanis, and Fr. James Loughran. Now comes a pop from Sean Michael Winters on America‘s own blog.

Winters, acknowledging that he’s biting the hand the feeds him, goes after the magazine’s editorial on the Goldstone report on last year’s conflict in Gaza, claiming that it displays “a lack of perspective.” I’m inclined to agree. The editorial does allow as how the Israeli incursion was provoked by “indiscriminate missile attacks by Hamas into southern Israel,” that Israel has a “right defend itself,” and that it is engaged, in Gaza, in “a difficult fight with an elusive opponent.” The problem is that, like the report itself, it fails to integrate rules of war into its human rights perspective.

The editorial cites the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides’ codification of rabbinic law, to the effect that when besieging a city, an army should leave one side unblocked in order to let the inhabitants flee. Pace R. Moses, but no actual siege could operate that way. A balanced perspective on Gaza would involve some demand that Hamas be held to account for its use of its own civilians to shield its fighters as well as for directing deadly force at Israeli civilians without any military reason for doing so.

But you’ve got to admire a magazine that lets its own folks to take pot shots at it.