The fallout continues from Cruz throwing a group of Arab Christians under the bus. KLo interviews Andrew Doran, the executive director of the group in question. Why, exactly, does Doran think the crowd booed Cruz?
There were several Syrians present who were outraged when Syria’s regime was lumped in with the Islamic State by Cruz; others are Palestinian Christians; some were insulted that he was politicizing the summit and lecturing them. (Most of them know a little more about the Middle East than the junior senator from Texas.) It was rude, to be sure, but we might remember that many of those present have to return to the Middle East — and many people there were watching these events closely. This has weighed heavily on us since the speech. I was backstage and so it was difficult to see, though I did hear people shout, “Talk about the Christians.” It wasn’t the only comment, to be sure, but that comment by itself certainly cannot be reasonably characterized as anti-Israel. To interrupt a speech is of course unacceptable, but the sentiment wasn’t unreasonable.
To look upon the displacement of over a million Christians, to listen to the death rattle of Christianity in the Middle East, and complain that they didn’t flatter a country that offers them no material assistance is, frankly, the reaction of a sociopath.
The political movement to get Americans to care about the plight of Middle Eastern Christians was a fragile one. This was always a difficult task for the reasons French philosopher Régis Debray outlines; the victims are too religious to excite the left and too foreign to excite the right. And by exploiting his credibility among conservative Evangelicals, Ted Cruz’s calumnious goading and showboating at this conference gave this movement a political decapitation, telling conservatives that it’s perfectly ok to ignore these people.
James Zogby wishes Cruz had put himself in the shoes of Arab Christians:
[I]n this entire sad and sordid affair, the only ignorance and bigotry on display was that of the senator himself. He cared not a bit for the feelings of Arab Christians. Blinded by his own lack of understanding and concern, Cruz appeared to be more interested in scoring political points with his conservative base than in taking the time to know what Christians in Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Iraq really feel and want.
Had Cruz listened, he would have heard about their difficult relationship with Israel—its brutal occupations of Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian lands and the disproportionate violence it has used, with impunity, in its many wars against several Arab countries.
Dreher remains deeply troubled by the incident:
Do the Christians of the Middle East hold opinions contrary to our own about the state of Israel? Many, probably most, probably nearly all of them, certainly do. Are they Jew haters? Some are, no doubt, and that is wicked. Are they driven by conspiracy theory? Sure, and I have been on the West Bank and heard some insane ones — but the entire Arab world works that way, to a degree that beggars belief.
The Middle East Christians are like us: flawed, sometimes badly flawed. But they are unlike us in that we are not at the mercy of hostile Muslims, many of whom wish to exterminate us. They are like the Israelis in that way, but again, they are unlike the Israelis in that they have no way to defend themselves except by their wits.
That usually means making alliances with unsavory actors. People who have to be afraid at every moment for their lives don’t have the luxury of being morally selective in who their friends are. If you are looking for somebody clean in Middle East politics, you will search in vain.
To me, it’s an insight into the neoconservative vision of the world. The actual world is not something they are interested in; the fantasy world in which they are the vanguard of freedom, and in which all opposition to Israel’s policies are anti-Semitism, is one they want to live in. The trouble is when they actually make contact with reality. They can’t handle it – and Cruz is almost a cardboard cut-out version of that ideological rigidity.