Exactly Who is 'In Defense of Christians'?
Much has been written over the last few days about Ted Cruz's appearance at the first summit of a new organization, "In Defense of Christians." The organization is working to form an alliance of leaders to preserve and protect some of the world's oldest Christian groups. What may be most curious about this organization is how they are now covering up exactly who makes up their board.
The incident in the news that brought this group front and center occurred as the result of Cruz walking away from the podium after stating that those who will not stand with our ally, Israel, will not have his support. You can view more here. His attempt to suggest that all religious bigotry (including anti-semitism) was a problem did not seem welcome to some in this audience. Watching his preliminary words before he left the stage helps put it in context.
Among the many opinions out there, Mark Tooley and his commenters appear to be aware of the political and nationalist aspect of being a Mideast Christian, which helps clarify the reaction to Cruz from some of the audience:
It’s no secret that many Mideast Christians generally aren’t big fans of Israel. I learned this firsthand during the 2006 Israel war on Hezbollah, when my discussion at church with a Lebanese Christian nearly escalated to a shouting match.
Sometimes American Christians romanticize overseas persecuted Christians into disembodied noble souls unaffected by terrestrial concerns. But they, like everybody else, have histories, loyalties, resentments, grievances, and political calculations. Generally, most Mideast Christians cannot further imperil themselves by ever seeming politically to sympathize with Israel or the West. But their notions are not just for appearances. Many Mideast Christians are Arab nationalists. And whether for survival or genuine sympathy, some church leaders over the years have aligned with repressive regimes, like Assad’s and Saddam’s.
Mideast Christians, in other words, are not necessarily planning to ever be on board with Israel and may very well continue to align with terrorist groups and leaders as they see fit.
An article from the Free Beacon outlines some of the concerning associations found within this group and its' summit speakers, for example:
Funding for the conference was provided by Clinton donor and Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, according to organizers. The wealthy businessman pledged $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative in 2009.
Chagoury is also reportedly backer of Lebanese politician Michel Aoun, Hezbollah’s top Christian ally in the country, according to U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Raï, who was scheduled to speak during the same keynote slot as Cruz on Wednesday evening, has called Israel an “enemy state that is occupying Lebanese territory” and defended Hezbollah’s right to attack the Jewish state.
Others at the summit have also aligned themselves with the Iranian-backed terrorist group. Syriac Orthodox Church Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II posted photos from his meeting with a “high level delegation from Hezbollah” on his official Facebook page last week.
See their article for even further examples, all of which would have been of reasonable concern to those, like Cruz, who feel anti-semitism must not be tolerated any more than the abuse of Mideast Christians.
Yet, the In Defense of Christians website felt it necessary to post yet again on the incident on Sept. 12th, taking a new slant which insinuates that Cruz turned a peaceful and productive event into a political one:
In last night’s Solidarity Gala Dinner, Senator Cruz chose to stand against the small and vocal minority of attendees who disagree with his views on Israel rather than standing with the vast majority of those who attended the gala and support both Israel and the Middle East’s Christians.
For those who do choose to listen to the entire video, it seems clear that Cruz was being shouted down loudly enough to make speaking difficult and that those doing the shouting had no intention of joining him in denouncing anti-semitism. The Sept. 12th post on their website suggests Cruz could have spoken in a way that may have been more pleasing to the audience:
Yesterday, 17 Republican and Democratic Senators and Representatives addressed this same audience, referring to peace and unity with Muslims and Jews—themes expressed throughout the conference with the resounding support of those present.
It seems like it would have been disingenuous for Cruz to gloss over that deeply held belief in order to appease an audience.