Texas Sen. Ted Cruz seems to have decided to take the opportunity of a speech to Middle Eastern Christians to attack Arabs broadly (and Palestinians more narrowly) for the benefit of his 2016 presidential aspirations. This didn’t go over very well.
The brand of conservative, American evangelicalism that Cruz often champions—one that often aligns itself with the state of Israel’s interests—did not sit well with everyone in attendance. Cruz was keynoting a gala for In Defense of Christians (IDC) […] a conference bringing together a range of Middle Eastern Christians—Orthodox, Catholic, Coptic, Syriac, Lebanese, Assyrian, to name a few—to foster a new sense of unity in the midst of a politically fraught season.
Sidebar: Not everyone in those various Christian sects are ethnically Arab, but they are generally of the various Semitic populations of the region. Anyway, he clearly seemed to suspect they weren’t “real” Christians — which is a pretty sore spot given the history of intra-Christian feuding over 2,000 years — and wanted to tell them about their own history.
He then told them they were “consumed with hate,” as they started booing his blind defense of Israel and insisted that Israel was the region’s greatest friend of Arab Christians — as if Christians pushed out or occupied by Israel might not have some pretty strong, unaddressed grievances with Israeli policy.
“…today Christians have no better ally than the Jewish state.” His audience at the Omni Shoreham Hotel began to boo. At first, Cruz continued undeterred. “Let me say this: those who hate Israel hate America. And those who hate Jews hate Christians.” The booing got louder.
Cruz pressed on, adding that his heart “weeps that the men and women here will not stand in solidarity with Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals who seek to murder them.”
Weird, because this year’s conference was focused on the ISIS expulsions of Christians and the organization is quite focused on persecution by radicals.
Later on Facebook, he suggested they were anti-Semitic because of how they responded. Leave it to Ted Cruz to call a room full of Middle Eastern Semitic peoples “anti-Semitic” because they disagree with his views on Israel. Knee-jerk hatred of Arabs, which Cruz clearly has, seems way more anti-Semitic.
American Evangelical Conservative Christianity isn’t even good for actual Christians around the world, let alone anyone else, including Jewish Israelis. It’s always condescending and patronizing and ignorant — constantly trying to lecture and “save” people with no regard to their history or life experiences.
An event leader tried to brush off the booing as an inappropriate reaction by a minority of the audience, as if the speech and his reaction to being heckled had not been the problem. Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, who has a large constituency of Syrian-Americans and Lebanese Americans, strongly criticized the speech (which he was present for) and Cruz’s response to the heckling:
“I support Israel, but what Senator Cruz did was outrageous and incendiary,” Dent said. “He showed a true lack of sensitivity for the people he was speaking to, especially the religious leaders who were there. It was a political speech, inappropriate and, overall, an uncomfortable moment.”
Dent added that Cruz seemed to be speaking “for another audience” beyond the ballroom that would later watch the video.
“He was speaking to people outside of the building,” Dent said. “It was a willful and deliberate confrontation, and very self-serving.”
Middle Eastern Americans were a Republican-leaning constituency in the 1980s and into the 1990s. Between this kind of insulting rhetoric/baiting and the anti-Muslim/anti-Arab hate crimes that increased after 9/11 (but began much earlier), it’s no wonder Republicans have lost touch with this potential base.