A new non-profit group called In Defense of Christians invited Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to give the keynote address at a dinner in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday night. There was some controversy surrounding other speakers known to sympathize with the Assad regime in Syria, which I guess is going to remain somewhat controversial until President Obama officially certifies Assad as a Partner in Peace. After American journalist James Foley was beheaded, the Syrians tried reaching out to offer their assistance against the Islamic State (“Syria is ready to cooperate and coordinate at the regional and international level in the war on terror,” chirped the Foreign Minister) but they were told to go play in the sand trap without a wedge. You know how quickly things change with Obama foreign policy, though, and it’s always accompanied by a laughable attempt to make everyone forget what Obama’s position was last week. Assad’s rehabilitation is not out of the question, although asking him to drop his chemical weapons exclusively on ISIS probably is.
But for the moment, the Syrian regime is still as toxic as the chlorine gas they’ve been dispensing out of the WMD stockpiles they were supposed to have surrendered, so eyebrows were raised that Cruz would address the In Defense of Christians event. That’s nothing compared to the elevation achieved by certain eyebrows after the Senator took the stage and spoke robustly in defense of the Jews and Israel. “Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” he declared… at which point the crowd booed him off the stage. He dropped the rest of the speech, told the crowd he couldn’t stand with them if they would not stand with the Jews, and bid them a good evening.
The Daily Caller describes the portion of his speech Cruz was able to deliver before the crowd turned sour:
Cruz, the keynote speaker at the sold-out D.C. dinner gala for the recently-founded non-profit In Defense of Christians, began by saying that ???tonight, we are all united in defense of Christians. Tonight, we are all united in defense of Jews. Tonight, we are all united in defense of people of good faith, who are standing together against those who would persecute and murder those who dare disagree with their religious teachings.???
Cruz was not reading from a teleprompter, nor did he appear to be reading from notes.
???Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations,??? he continued. ???ISIS, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas, 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, that we have to understand their so called nuances and differences. But we shouldn???t try to parse different manifestations of evil that are on a murderous rampage through the region. Hate is hate, and murder is murder. Our purpose here tonight is to highlight a terrible injustice, a humanitarian crisis.???
Of course Cruz didn’t use a teleprompter. He never does. He doesn’t just memorize his speeches, he internalizes them. And when this particular audience let him down, he didn’t stammer, get flustered, suck up to the crowd, ignore the jeers to plow witlessly ahead with his prepared remarks, or let them bully him out of making his point. He made the point firmly and and stood his ground, refusing to continue the presentation if that meant yielding on his insistence that all people of good faith must unite against evil:
???Those who hate Israel hate America,??? he continued, as the boos and calls for him to leave the stage got louder. ???Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps. If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ. And the very same people who persecute and murder Christians right now, who crucify Christians, who behead children, are the very same people who target Jews for their faith, for the same reason.???
This is why certain other politicians who do rely heavily on teleprompters prefer to address audiences composed primarily of children, friendly journalists, or adults who paid at least $25,000 a head to their campaign funds to hear them speak.
To their credit, In Defense of Christians president Toufic Baaklini and executive director Andrew Doran tried to get the crowd to simmer down and hear Senator Cruz out. This is a really disastrous ending for an evening that was clearly important to their organization. Baaklini issued a statement after the event charging that “a few politically-motivated opportunists chose to divide a room that for more than 48 hours sought unity in opposing the shared threat of genocide, faced not only by our Christian brothers and sisters, but by our Jewish brothers and sisters.”
Cruz gave a statement to Breitbart News after the event:
“Tonight, in Washington, should have been a night of unity as we came together for the inaugural event for a group that calls itself ‘In Defense of Christians.’ Instead, it unfortunately deteriorated into a shameful display of bigotry and hatred,” Cruz said in a statement provided to Breitbart News. “When I spoke in strong support of Israel and the Jewish people, who are being persecuted and murdered by the same vicious terrorists who are also slaughtering Christians, many Christians in the audience applauded. But, sadly, a vocal and angry minority of attendees at the conference tried to shout down my expression of solidarity with Israel.”
Cruz continued in his statement by noting that detractors “cannot shout down the truth,” and the American people “should not shy away from expressing the truth, even in the face of–especially in the face of–ignorance and bigotry.”
“I told the attendees that those who hate Israel also hate America,” Cruz said. “That those who hate Jews also hate Christians. And that anyone who hates Israel and the Jewish people is not following the teachings of Christ. These statements were met with angry boos. I went on to tell the crowd that Christians in the Middle East have no better friend than Israel. That Christians can practice their faith free of persecution in Israel. And that ISIS, al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah, along with their state sponsors in Syria and Iran, are all part of the same cancer, murdering Christians and Jews alike. Hate is hate, and murder is murder.”
Alas, Senator Cruz, murder does not scare the hate out of some people. Not that Arab Christians are a homogeneous group with universal opinions on Israel. There have been stories over the past year about growing interest by Arab Christians in joining the Israeli military (and, of course, stories about groups that are strongly opposed to Arab Christians doing so.) As of last Christmas, the Israeli Defense Force said the number of Christian recruits had doubled.
It’s not hard to see that Christians are better off in Israel than under most other governments in the region… but then, that’s true of Arab Muslims who find themselves practicing the “wrong” brand of Islam, too. There have been noble instances of communities standing up for their Christian neighbors across the Middle East – for example, in Egypt during the days of Muslim Brotherhood domination – but Israel is just about the only place where religious minorities are guaranteed perpetual institutional protection against violence and oppression. Even when Christian communities enjoy some protection from the local strongman, they never know when his regime might be deposed and replaced by something far less agreeable, to say nothing of all the non-combatants who get caught in the crossfire during bloody insurrections and crackdowns. That doesn’t happen in Israel. The security of Israeli citizens is not an indulgence of the current regime; it’s a national principle.
You’d think that would sell itself to Arab Christians of all political persuasions… but instead, not even Ted Cruz, among the most accomplished orators of our time, couldn’t sell it to some of them.