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Ted Cruz Crashes Defense of Christians Summit
By Jonathan Coppage • September 11, 2014
The American Conservative
Last night, Ted Cruz stood up to offer the keynote address to a room full of Middle Eastern Christians and their allies at a somber but celebratory gala dinner dedicated to Christian unity in the face of persecution and genocide. Soon thereafter, he stalked off under a chorus of boos, with the senator declaring the room to be full of hate and saying, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.” The entire transcript of his remarks is included below, along with the complete audio I recorded 20 feet from Senator Cruz and the stage.
The plight of Christians in the Middle East has swept to the fore of public consciousness in recent weeks, as ISIS and related organizations have systematically persecuted and murdered Christians, driving them from homes that date back to the very beginning of Christendom. The In Defense of Christians Summit was organized to bring together Christians of every sect and denomination to stand in solidarity with their persecuted brethren. Summit participants spent Wednesday on Capitol Hill, meeting with members of Congress to drive home their message.
Ted Cruz, however, fractured that unity. Hours before his keynote yesterday, The Washington Free Beacon ran a customarily nuanced headline, blaring “Cruz Headlines Conference Featuring Hezbollah Supporters.” The story referenced several of the leading Middle Eastern Christian leaders present and their own remarks about their region’s politics, taking particular pains to note that Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Raï has an open dialogue with Hezbollah, the Shi’ite Lebanese political party and State Department designated terrorist organization. Lebanon has a long history of inter-religious conflict and is split between Sunni, Shi’ite, and Christian communities. Many Christians in the region have either allied with or received shelter from Shi’ite Muslim communities, in the face of radical Sunni organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Cruz’s spokesperson responded to that story, saying, “Sen. Cruz is appearing at the In Defense of Christians event tonight because he wants to take every opportunity to highlight this crisis, the unspeakable persecution of Christians. … America has been silent for far too long, and we need to speak with a united voice against this horror. Sen. Cruz is speaking to make the unequivocal point that religious bigotry in all its forms – be it targeting Christians, Jews, or minority Muslim sects – is an evil that must be exposed and combatted.”
When Cruz took the stage, however, after two days of declarations of Christian unity and recognition of the widespread persecution of peoples of all faiths, his remarks emphasized his devotion to the state of Israel. The crowd applauded faithfully as Cruz made the argument that ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah, as well as Syria and Iran, were all equal participants in genocidal bigotry. Cruz then transitioned. After saying, “Our purpose here tonight is to highlight a terrible injustice, a humanitarian crisis: Christians are being systematically exterminated,” Cruz then turned to the 1948 formation of Israel, a sensitive subject for many Palestinian Christians, and declared that “today, Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state.”
It was at that point that some in the audience objected to Cruz turning a celebration of Christian unity into a lecture on a divisive subject that many in the crowd experienced as part of their everyday lives. Cruz returned accusations of hatred. Even then, most of the crowd tried to reconcile with him as Cruz continued on to speak about “Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals who seek to murder them. [applause] If you hate the Jewish people, you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ. [applause]” As he continued to press the issue, however, the crowd increasingly urged him to “move on” and booed, leading him to lament those “consumed with hate” and depart. Reportedly, Lebanese ambassador Antoine Shedid and three members of the Lebanese parliament walked out of Cruz’s speech:
#Lebanon Ambassador Antoine Shedid along with 3 Parliamentarians walked out on @SenTedCruz speech with him lecturing on Israel.
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) September 11, 2014
In Defense of Christians executive director Andrew Doran later came to the stage to acknowledge the sensitivity of the Israel–Palestinian issue, but urged, “For the love of God, we’re here to talk about Christians and we’re here to be united.” When Cardinal Raï took the stage after the dinner, he related an old Lebanese saying, “At every wedding, there are a few wedding crashers,” and said he was sorry for the events earlier that evening. He urged all in the crowd to put the unpleasantness behind them, an urging that echoed through the remarks of all the leaders speaking that night.
In a statement, IDC President Toufic Baaklini said,
In this case, 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 our Jewish brothers and sisters and people of other all other faiths and all people of good will.
Tonight’s injection of politics when the focus should have been on unity and faith, momentarily played into the hands of a few who do not adhere to IDC’s principles. They were made no longer welcome.
While the Cruz incident was a low-light for the summit, the Christian leaders gathered at the dinner continued to make vigorous defenses of the separation of church and state and the importance of inculcating pluralism in the Middle East. I sat next to an Iraqi man whose family had been turned out of their homes and had to flee the area their people had settled for thousands of years. Those sufferers should be the focus in discussing IDC and its summit, and they should not be made into pawns or proxies for other conflicts.
Transcript of Ted Cruz’s Remarks at In Defense of Christians Summit
Good evening. Today we are gathered at a time of extraordinary challenge. Tonight we are all united in defense of Christians. [applause] Tonight we are all united in defense of Jews. [applause] 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. [applause] Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations. ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, [applause] and their state sponsors like Syria and Iran, [applause] 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: Christians are being systematically exterminated. In 1948, Jews throughout the Middle East faced murder and extermination and fled to the nation of Israel. And today, Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state. [“stop it”, “no”, mixed applause, boos] Let me say this, those who hate Israel, hate America. [“no”, boos, mixed applause] And those who hate Jews, hate Christians. [boos, mixed applause] And if this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps, that the men and women here will not stand in solidarity with Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals who seek to murder them. [applause] If you hate the Jewish people, you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ. [applause] 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 and murder Jews for their faith for the same reason. [“stop it”, “you’re not a Christian”, “enough”, mixed applause, objections] I will say this. [“you’re not a Christian”, “get out”, “go home”] I am saddened. [murmuring, objections]
[IDC President Toufic Baaklini comes out to urge respect]
I will say this, I am saddened, to see that some here, not everyone but some here, are so consumed with hate, [“no”, boos] that you cannot address your brother. I will say this, [objections, boos, “enough”] if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Thank you, and God bless you. [objections, mixed applause]
In Defense Of Christians Slams The Weekly Standard Editor’s Anti-Christian ‘Bigotry’ Defending Ted Cruz
J. Arthur Bloom, Opinion Editor
The Daily Caller 09/18/2014
The group that hosted one of the largest ecumenical Christian gatherings to address religious persecution in years last Wednesday night, which was crashed in dramatic fashion by junior Senator from Texas Ted Cruz, is calling for an apology from The Weekly Standard for remarks made by senior editor Lee Smith on Twitter regarding the incident. Smith accused the crowd of showing its “ISIS face” when some in the crowd, which included many Arab Christians, booed the Senator for goading them with successively more politically-charged lines about Israel.
“There were people in that very room whose loved ones were killed by ISIS terrorists. Smith’s hate and bigotry should not be tolerated by The Weekly Standard,” IDC Senior Advisor Joseph Cella said in a statement to The Daily Caller.
The same day, Smith ranted that American Christians could not possibly be sincere about their concern for their Middle Eastern brethren.
“Smith breached the line of reasonable commentary from an editor or journalist of any publication,” says Cella. “His Tweets in question are venomous and abusive anti-Christian bigotry, not to mention dripping in rude condescension and elitist arrogance. We call on The Weekly Standard and Smith to apologize for this. Smith should be appropriately disciplined by The Weekly Standard, and he should delete these anti-Christian Tweets from his @LeeSmithTWS account.”
“IDC agrees with Smith’s previous writing on the importance of the preservation and protection of the ancient Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt, and Eliahou Hanabi, the community’s last remaining synagogue. Christians in the Middle East are facing systematic persecution by ISIL terrorists, and rather than calling for their preservation and protection, Smith mocks Middle East Christians and Americans who are standing up for their protection,” Cella added.
Smith’s complaint that Americans see Middle Eastern Christianity as a “spent force” is also interesting, given that the diminution of Christian political power in the region is directly tied to American and American-backed upheavals in the region, including the second Iraq invasion and the Arab Spring. Or our involvement in sending weapons to the Syrian rebels since 2012 – the House approved the same action yesterday – many of which are likely in the hands of ISIS.
Most estimates hold that the number of Christians in Iraq has declined by around a million from 2003. How much more “spent” does Smith need them to be?
As Ross Douthat put it in The New York Times this weekend, “if 2,000 years of Christian history in the Middle East ends in blood and ash and exile, the American right no less than the left and center will deserve a share of responsibility for that fate.”
One might point to commentators like Smith, or certain conservative outlets that initially put the word Christian in scare quotes in their reporting on the incident.
Cella also set the record straight that Cruz’s office initially reached out to them:
“Cruz’s staff initiated contact with IDC’s Executive Director, Andrew Doran, earlier this year after he traveled to the Middle East and published several articles on the persecution of Christians there. An invitation to speak was later extended to him by IDC; however, as was clearly evident from his remarks last Wednesday night, he purposefully veered from the topic he agreed to address, which was approved in Cruz’s own event request form.”
This form, which was shared with TheDC, states the topics pertaining to the group were, “Religious persecution of Christians, unity with the persecuted Church.”
“People were horrified at his remarks because they know how much is at stake. As reported by one writer in attendance, at least one audience member yelled ‘You’re going to get us all killed!’ Cruz proved he does not have the temperament to appreciate that this is a very complex and volatile region of the world.”
We’ve requested comment from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and will update this story if we hear from him.
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