Who Ted Cruz Won’t Stand With

Cruz got booed off stage at a Christian event:

Peter Grier provides background:

On Wednesday night, the Texas GOP senator gave a keynote address at a gala sponsored by a group named In Defense of Christians. The organization’s objective is to focus public attention on the plight of persecuted Middle East Christian groups. Near the end of his speech, Senator Cruz said, “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.” At this point, some in the audience started to boo, according to eyewitness accounts and video of the incident. Cruz continued with, “Those who hate Israel hate America. Those who hate Jews hate Christians.” At that point, the boos got louder and things began to get out of hand. Eventually, Cruz decided he could not continue.

Elizabeth Dias determines that “Cruz’s problem was one of context”:

First, he pinned his remarks to the conflict between Israel and Hamas when one of the group’s primary agenda points was actually the plight of Iraqi Christians. Second, Christians are far from a monolithic group, especially when it comes to views on policy on Israel and the Middle East. The American evangelicals Cruz typically addresses tend to be worlds apart historically, culturally, theologically, and politically from the Christian leaders in attendance.

Larison feels that “Cruz was completely out of line to set some kind of ideological litmus test for the attendees that requires them to endorse the ‘pro-Israel’ views that Cruz happens to hold”:

Cruz is free to hold those views, and many of his voters agree with him, but it is obnoxious to demand that others, including many Arab Christian clergy in attendance, subscribe to those views in order to obtain Cruz’s sympathy for their plight. Not only is “standing with Israel” irrelevant to the reason for the summit, but as this incident has proven it is a completely unnecessary distraction from the work of the organization that sponsored the event.

Jonathan Tobin sees the story differently:

Today, Christians find themselves under tremendous pressure in a region where true freedom of religion only really exists in Israel. Yet some who claim to represent Christians are once again outspoken in their hate for Israel and even absurdly blaming the Jews for their plight at the hands of hostile Palestinian Islamists. Instead of making common cause with Jews who are also targeted because of their faith, some Christian groups have become among the most outspoken advocates of hate against Israel.

But Dreher doesn’t think that is the issue at hand:

Anti-Semitism among Christians, Arab and otherwise, is appalling, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what was at issue here. Ted Cruz came to this event apparently seeking to score points with a domestic US political constituencies at the expense of the desperate need for international Christian solidarity in the face of horrendous persecution by ISIS and other radical Islamic groups. To add to the insult, now Breitbart, a leading website of movement conservatism, questions the Christianity of these Arab men and women in that Washington room.

This is beyond infuriating. Arab Christians in the Middle East face persecution and death every day, simply because they are Christian. And this Dr. Susan Berry person on Breitbart distorts the truth — saying that Cruz was booed because he supported Israel, when in fact he was booed because he turned his speech into a pro-Israel lecture to a hostile audience — and then writes as if the only thing worth knowing about the Christians in that audience is that some of them had met with Hezbollah.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, who calls himself “a full-throated supporter of Israel,” was disgusted by Cruz’s antics. He contends that Cruz was “using one of the world’s most beleaguered minorities as a prop for his own self-aggrandizement”:

Cruz tarred and attacked one of the most powerless and beleaguered minorities in the world, solely for personal political gain. He was speaking truth to the powerless. He was strong against the weak.

In the end, what was most striking about Cruz’s tirade was the last phrase: “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.” Cruz was literally standing in a room with his fellow Christians. In the Bible, the idea of the fellowship of Christian believers is a very important one, and to break fellowship is to put oneself outside the community. What Cruz was saying was that agreeing to his views on Israel was more important as a badge of fellowship than believing in Jesus Christ.

Omar Baddar calls out Cruz for conflating “Israel” with “Jews”:

When the crowd booed Cruz for praising Israel as an ally of Christians, he responded by saying “those who hate Jews hate Christians.” That would be an interesting argument, except no one in the crowd was booing Jews. In fact, the transcript and audio recording of the speech clearly show that when Cruz said, “Tonight we are all united in defense of Jews,” the crowd was united in applause. And Cruz’s ending statement of “if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews” demonstrates an inexcusable conflation of the Jewish people, on the one hand, and Israel on the other. The former is an ethno-religious group, and hostility toward them is indeed hateful bigotry, which should be opposed by all people of conscience. The latter, however, is a state with an egregious record of violations of human rights and international law.

And Jonathan Bernstein hopes that we’re “not really going to pretend that Ted Cruz had a ‘Sister Souljah Moment’ when he stormed off”:

A true Republican Sister Souljah moment wouldn’t involve taking on opponents of Israel. Rather, it could be a smackdown of Republican-aligned fans of Israel who use extreme language. Or it could involve going to some mainstream conservative event hosted by opponents of comprehensive immigration reform and bashing someone who had used extreme anti-immigrant language. Or (as Rand Paul did) questioning Republican efforts to raise hurdles to voting.

You know what would be a real Sister Souljah moment for Cruz? Denouncing his own father’s comments.