The persecution of Christians in the Middle East is one of the great human rights emergencies of our time. The world’s silence in the face of this crisis is one of the great moral failures of our day.
Last week, Senator Ted Cruz tried to help shatter this silence. In a speech to a new organization called In Defense of Christians, Cruz highlighted a fundamental truth underlying this tragedy:
Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations. ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and their state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East. Sometimes we are told not to loop these groups together…. But we shouldn’t try to parse different manifestations of evil…. Hate is hate. And murder is murder.
Cruz spoke these words with the full knowledge that some in his audience had aligned themselves with Hezbollah’s terrorists and Assad’s death squads in their desperate struggle to survive. But these cynical deals notwithstanding, the crowd respectfully listened to their keynote speaker.
But then Cruz went too far. He stated, “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state.” Doubling down on the truth, he further noted, “Those who hate Israel hate America. And those who hate Jews hate Christians.” The honesty was apparently too much. A vocal minority booed Cruz off the stage.
It came as no surprise that many commentators rushed to condemn this ugliness. Yet it was not the crude heckling that disturbed all of them. Instead, many launched a surprisingly bizarre attack against Senator Cruz.
To cite just a few of many examples, Ross Douthat complained in the New York Times that Cruz should have “withdrawn from the event” if he could not address the audience without praising Israel. Writing in Politico, James Zogby accused Cruz of “ignorance and bigotry” as well as not caring “a bit for the feelings of Arab Christians.”
Rod Dreher complained that Cruz had “the unspeakable arrogance” to expect his audience to support Israel when “doing so would put their own lives in danger once they return home.” Echoing this critique, Jeff King of International Christian Concern noted of those in attendance: “They can’t be pro-Israel where they live, because they will get the snot beaten out of them or worse.… you’ve got to question what he [Cruz] was thinking,”
Now that’s rich. Collaborating with Hezbollah and Assad passes with barely a comment. But praising Israel is beyond what these gentle souls could condone.
For years we’ve complained of timid politicians who tell their audiences only what they want to hear. Now Senator Cruz has inspired a new complaint from the chattering class. The Senator had the nerve to tell his audience something they didn’t want to hear!
Let’s be clear. Senator Cruz certainly expressed his views. But he never demanded that anyone agree with him. And he certainly never asked anyone to return to the Middle East and wave the Israeli flag. He merely thought he could still speak his mind here, in America.
Cruz’s words have the added benefit of being true. Why would it be so dangerous for these Christians to go home and support Israel? Precisely because – as Senator Cruz emphasized – the people who are persecuting them also hate Jews and the Jewish State.
As for being an ally to Christians, Israel is on the front line battling these shared enemies. Israelis are also going to great lengths to aid Syrian refugees by providing them with food, shelter and medical care. In so doing, Israel isn’t discriminating between Muslims and Christians — should it be? Meanwhile, Israel’s Christians are the only community in the region that’s not collapsing but thriving (growing from 34,000 in 1948 to over 150,000 today.)
The irony is that most of Cruz’s critics have done far less than Cruz to defend these persecuted Christians. And like Cruz, the groups which have been most active on behalf of these Christians are also strong supporters of Israel. Christians United for Israel led the charge on Capitol Hill to pass legislation requiring the appointment of a special envoy focused exclusively on the persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East. The American Center for Law and Justice has worked tirelessly to rally American support for persecuted Christians like Pastor Saeed Abedini (still languishing in an Iranian prison). Thus far, In Defense of Christians has done nothing but eat dinner.
There is no contradiction between supporting the Jewish State and defending the Middle East’s religious minorities. Those who truly threaten the coalition seeking to end this horror are those who partner with Assad, Hezbollah and other mass murderers. We dare not ignore the hundreds of thousands of Muslims that Assad and Hezbollah have slaughtered. We must never forget the 241 American servicemen and 63 embassy staff Hezbollah killed when it bombed our Beirut facilities in 1983. While Israel will always share our values and protect the region’s Christians, these forces of evil can and will do neither. Like Churchill’s crocodile, they will eventually devour even those who’ve fed them in the hopes of being eaten last.
David Brog, the Executive Director of Christians United for Israel, is the author of In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity.