op-ed

OPINION: New Bill Protects Civilians From Becoming Human Shields In Terrorist Warfare

ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Pastor John Hagee Founder and Chairman, Christians United for Israel

Our armed forces and those of our allies are led by men and women who serve bravely and honorably. They put themselves in harm’s way to protect life and liberty.

Our adversaries embody the opposite ethos. The terrorists that Western nations are so often compelled to confront do not abide by the laws of war and do not value innocent life. For the terror groups we face on the battlefield, innocent men, women and children are pawns, easily discarded, unworthy of protection, utterly inconsequential.

In Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Middle East, terrorist groups hide their missiles, militants and weapons in civilian areas and structures. They fire their missiles and mortars at civilian population centers, from civilian population centers. For the terror groups using human shields, the innocents in their midst are seen as tactical defenses to protect terrorists from being detained or eliminated and convenient tools for propaganda if they are killed in the crossfire.

These tactics place moral armies in a quandary. Do they engage the enemy and risk innocent life, or do they stand down, allowing terrorists to launch their weapons at the very civilians these militaries are sworn to protect?

Today, thanks to a bipartisan effort in Congress, the United States can simultaneously help our servicemen and women achieve their mission and make parts of the world overrun by terror groups a little bit safer for people who are at risk of being caught in the crossfire.

The STOP Using Human Shields Act, introduced by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Indiana Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly, uses the powers of the United States to make it more difficult for groups like Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah to continue to use human shields.

This legislation, which was recently passed by the Senate, should advance through the House of Representatives and be signed by the president without delay.

The Cruz-Donnelly legislation condemns the use of human shields in clear terms. It requires the president to list and sanction the terrorists and other individuals involved in building the relevant infrastructure and otherwise attempting to use human shields. Anyone who is determined by the president to be complicit in the use of human shields will be barred from the United States and will have any property seized.

This bill makes clear that terrorists who hide behind the skirts of women and the bodies of children are war criminals.

Moreover, there are too many countries — particularly in Europe — who have failed to unequivocally call out terror groups for what they are and continue to engage them diplomatically.

Crucially, the Cruz-Donnelly bill brings into the light those who use human shields. And as a result, governments around the world that have not already forsaken these groups will face pressure to do so, immediately.

It is unconscionable that no country in Latin America has designated Hezbollah a terror organization and that the European Union distinguishes between the so-called “military” and “political” wings of Hezbollah. And there remain high-level advisors to European leaders in Brussels who believe that Hamas should not be designated.

The Cruz-Donnelly legislation will put pressure on governments worldwide to withdraw the legitimacy they afford to groups and individuals who, if they wore a uniform, would clearly and rightfully be identified as war criminals.

Traveling across the country, I have the opportunity to meet veterans at Christians United for Israel (CUFI) events or in church on Sundays. Many served in Afghanistan, Iraq or in both theaters. I am always awed by their passion, their dedication and their willingness to sacrifice. And my heart is always warmed when they recount stories of engaging civilians, especially children, to make personal connections and set the conditions for a better life.

Their example stands in stark contrast to that of our enemies. Innocent people are not shields, they are to be shielded. It is in America’s strategic and moral interests to reduce the ‘attractiveness’ of this cowardly, repugnant, cynical tactic – and now, we have that opportunity.

Pastor John Hagee is the founder and Chairman of Christians United for Israel.


views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.