Gage Skidmore / cc

Jonathan Coppage reports on the embarrassing display that Sen. Ted Cruz put on at a summit organized to draw attention to the plight of persecuted Christians:

A humanitarian crisis. Christians, are being systematically exterminated,” Cruz then turned to the 1948 formation of Israel, a sensitive subject for many Palestinian Christians, and declared that ”today, Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state.”

It was at that point that some in the audience objected to Cruz turning a celebration of Christian unity into a lecture on a divisive subject that many in the crowd experienced as part of their everyday lives. Cruz returned accusations of hatred.

In Defense of Christians (IDC) put out an irenic and balanced statement in response to the incident. As one would expect, Sen. Cruz pretended that he had done nothing wrong, and went so far as to make the ridiculous claim that he had taken a stand against anti-Semitism. Cruz’s behavior was unnecessary, it was insulting to his hosts, it was needlessly provocative to the audience, and it was an embarrassment to his voters. Because he has proven time after time to be a shameless demagogue, none of that will bother him.

An important point that has been lost in many of the reactions to this incident is that Cruz was completely out of line to set some kind of ideological litmus test for the attendees that requires them to endorse the “pro-Israel” views that Cruz happens to hold. Cruz is free to hold those views, and many of his voters agree with him, but it is obnoxious to demand that others, including many Arab Christian clergy in attendance, subscribe to those views in order to obtain Cruz’s sympathy for their plight. Not only is “standing with Israel” irrelevant to the reason for the summit, but as this incident has proven it is a completely unnecessary distraction from the work of the organization that sponsored the event.

The issue should be important enough that it transcends other policy and political disagreements. The fact that Cruz could not recognize this, but instead chose to emphasize and dwell on those disagreements to the point of accusing members of the audience of being “consumed with hatred” reflects very poorly on him. Cruz chose to abuse his place at this gathering for cynical and self-promoting reasons, which unfortunately has become part of a recurring pattern for the junior senator from Texas. The good news is that his shameless behavior may have unintentionally helped to bring more attention to the suffering of Christians throughout the region.