And Mollie Hemingway and Matt Lewis and K-Lo and Rod Dreher and Michael Brendan Dougherty … and so many others who, however politely, expressed their misgivings over Cruz’s inflammatory speech to Middle East Christian groups, in which he “trolled the victims of genocide”, as Dougherty memorably tweeted. Ross’s piece is the best I read on the subject, and if you can find a scintilla of anti-Semitism in it, well, you’re probably Leon Wieseltier. But this is what Cruz just said to The World magazine in response to his critics:
Among one particular community, which is sort of the elite, intellectual Washington, D.C., crowd, there has been considerable criticism. … A number of the critics, a number of the folks in the media have suggested, for example, that my saying what I did distracted from the plight of persecuted Christians. What I find interesting is almost to a person, the people writing those columns have never or virtually never spoken of persecuted Christians in any other context. I have spoken literally hundreds of times all over the country. This is a passion. I’ve been on the Senate floor, and I intend to keep highlighting this persecution. I will say it does seem interesting that the only time at least some of these writers seem to care about persecuted Christians is when it furthers an anti-Israel narrative for them. That starts to suggest that maybe their motivation is not exactly what they’re saying.”
“Almost to a person”?
Cruz should name names if he believes that his critics have never written about Christian persecution in the Middle East before now. It is not my impression. But the imputation of anti-Semitism is yet another instance in which the neocon right simply refuses to engage the arguments about policy in the Middle East without resorting to this kind of rhetorical blackmail. It’s a reminder not just of Cruz’s deep McCarthyite tendencies, but of a dangerously crude view of the world in which bright and permanent abstractions – Israel always right! America just needs to bomb its enemies! – have replaced any actual engagement with reality.
Cruz is a domestic creature. He cares about marshaling and exploiting the fanaticism of the Zionist Christianist right and winning the mountains of cash available to any GOP candidate who backs Likudnik policies and the permanent annexation of the West Bank. What he isn’t is a thinker on foreign policy, someone who has any sort of clue how to engage a messy and dangerous world. And yet what he represents is clearly a rising force on the right – a kind of Jacksonian myopia that we thought had suffered a mortal blow in the sands of Mesopotamia but is now back, pristine, and ready to go to war against Islam all over again.
Update: Perhaps sensing that he had falsely accused so many writers of being anti-Semites and not caring about Middle East Christians, Cruz has just walked back his words in an email to Matt Lewis:
It was a mistake to suggest that critics of my remarks at IDC had not spoken out previously concerning the persecution of Christians; many of them have done so, often quite eloquently. It was not my intent to impugn anyone’s integrity, and I apologize to any columnists who took offense. The systematic murder of Christians in the Middle East is a horrible atrocity, and all of us should be united against it. Likewise we should speak with one voice against the persecution of Jews, usually being carried out by the very same jihadist radicals.