Late last week, Texas Senator (and likely presidential candidate) Ted Cruz was booed off the stage at an event when he made comments in praise of Israel. At the time, it seemed like Cruz had solidified his pro-Israel bona fides by telling off a crowd that was hostile to the Jewish state. But not long after, Senator Cruz started to face some sharp criticism for what he did.
First, two points.
Since coming to Washington, Cruz and his style have rubbed many people the wrong way. There is a lot to criticize him for, particularly his unique ability to put leadership in awkward positions. His refusal to go along to get along has caused those in leadership positions to make decisions that are not smart, and that they would rather not make. (see: shutdown) Still, blaming how leadership responds on Cruz, a single senator, is absolving leadership of its responsibilities.
Now, Cruz wasinvited to deliver the keynote address at the inaugural IDC (In Defense of Christians) summit, an organization that was formed to bring awareness to the ongoing genocide of Middle Eastern Christians at the hands of radical Muslims, the likes of ISIS. Before the speech, the Washington Free Beacon ran a story that detailed the troubling associations of some of the conference’s speakers. Some were defenders of the Assad regime in Syria and others had sought to ally themselves with Hizbullah. Cruz’s spokesperson told The Washington Free Beacon that he would appear at the dinner despite this, to highlight the persecution of Christians.
Then Cruz went to the dinner, said something complimentary about Israel, and got booed by some people in the crowd. Cruz (rightfully) doubled down on his statement, and began to lecture them, saying the “people who persecute and murder Christians right now … are the very same people who target and murder Jews for their faith for the very same reason.” When this was met with more sustained booing, Cruz called those booing “consumed with hate” and walked off the stage, saying, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.” Let me say this: What Cruz did in walking off the podium is nothing less than genuine and admirable, and it solidified him as an irreplaceable defender of Israel and the Jewish people.
Cruz was criticized by some conservatives who said that he should not have brought up Israel in that setting. That is a fair point. It may have been wisest for Cruz not to speak of something that he knew would antagonize some in the crowd. But the flip side is that the booing and reaction to what he said was also completely wrong. And what is missing from most of these critical pieces is the part where they concede that the booing was anti-Semitic.
There may be legitimate reasons for some in attendance to be less than the biggest fans of Israel (for example, Israel and Lebanon haven’t exactly been the best of friends), but some conservative writers who are otherwise very supportive of the Jewish state wanted to excuse the audience’s animus because of the mistaken belief that Palestinian Christians live under what they refer to as “Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.” That strikes me as kind of odd.
Others wanted to excuse the disturbing ties some speakers have by citing historical precedent. The United States allied with the USSR to defeat the Nazis, they say; so too, those aligning with Hizbullah to combat ISIS are only doing what they must in order to defeat a greater enemy. That is actually a valid point, and one I’d agree with completely. But the comparison cannot be accurate so long as one of the speakers at the conference, Patriarch Gregory III Laham, called the violence against Christians in Iraq a “Zionist conspiracy against Islam” and said that it was the Jews who were really responsible. Something tells me that’s not just something he’s saying to survive.
Cruz could not be blamed, as some at the conference would have you believe, for “destroying the unity” that the conference had created when, for example, Laham and two other religious leaders had already refused to attend a panel session with Rep. Chris Smith, and two others walked out because he was set to read a statement critical of the Assad regime.
I doubt those bashing Cruz would, under any other circumstances, explain the booing by that minority of participants as being rooted in anything other than anti-Semitism. That being the case, Cruz reacted the way he should have — by walking off stage. It’s just that to them, the genocide taking place makes the (admitted) anti-Semitism of those booing nothing more than a distraction, and something Cruz (and Free Beacon) ought to have shied away from exposing.
We could all agree on that, but it would be nice if everyone could admit it.