Home/Daniel Larison/The Lazy and Dishonest “Anti-Israel” Attack

The Lazy and Dishonest “Anti-Israel” Attack

Overlooking the Old City of Jersusalem Elena Dijour / Shutterstock.com

In an interview with World magazine focused on his obnoxious display at the In Defense of Christians summit earlier this month and the subsequent conservative criticism of that performance, Ted Cruz resorted to another round of dishonest smears:

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.

All of these claims about his critics were completely and laughably untrue, and Cruz’s interview produced a quick backlash from these conservatives that reacted poorly to being falsely accused of bad faith and of having biases they don’t possess. Faced with the backlash, he quickly backed away from the failed attempt to vilify his critics and offered an apology. Nonetheless, he confirmed in the process that he was perfectly willing to make false accusations and misrepresent the views of his critics in order to portray himself as some sort of bold truth-teller.

Consider Cruz’s charge that “at least some” of his critics wanted to further an “anti-Israel narrative.” The complaint doesn’t make any sense. It was Cruz that chose to introduce support for Israel into the conversation and made it a point of contention during a gathering focused on an entirely different and unrelated subject. It doesn’t accurately describe the views of his most vocal critics, most of whom wentout of their way to affirm their support for Israel even as they objected to Cruz’s clumsy, offensive behavior. His critics were almost all just as conventionally “pro-Israel” as Cruz is. Indeed, I would expect that “pro-Israel” conservatives are among the most embarrassed by Cruz’s display because it reflects so poorly on their position. One will look in vain for evidence of any of those critics trying to use this episode to advance an “anti-Israel narrative.” On Cruz’s own terms, it shouldn’t be possible to use the plight of Christians in the region to advance an “anti-Israel narrative,” but the more important point is that what he claimed had happened simply never happened. Cruz made it all up because he thinks that is what will shore up his credentials as a “pro-Israel” hawk and because he thinks that is what an evangelical audience wants to hear.

As we know, Cruz’s use of the “anti-Israel” charge is still only too typical on the right nowadays. We saw Cruz and others use it repeatedly during the Hagel confirmation hearings, but it has also been deployed with regularity over the last two decades whenever conservatives have anything even mildly critical or skeptical to say about the U.S.-Israel relationship or Israeli policies. Anything short of endorsing hard-line views on these topics is wrongly treated as proof of “anti-Israel” bias. This is both lazy and dishonest, but the good news is that more Americans are seeing through this misrepresentation all the time. Maybe twenty years ago Cruz could have gotten away with his dishonest smears and come out ahead, but that is fortunately no longer the case.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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