Having long since captured the sympathies of America’s evangelical Christians, Israel’s friends have recently been attempting to show empathy for the persecuted Christian churches of the Arab World in what appears to be a concerted effort to garner support for Tel Aviv’s regional aspirations. Only founded earlier this year, a previously obscure non-profit organization called “In Defense of Christians” suddenly attracted international headlines during its inaugural summit (Sept. 9-11). The stated purpose of the three-day Washington, D.C. gathering was to raise awareness about the plight of beleaguered Middle Eastern Christian communities whose continued existence is threatened by the advance of the Islamic State, or ISIS, and other takfiri groups.
Although The Washington Post published a report on the IDC Summit in its Religion section on Sept. 10, it wasn’t until that evening’s gala dinner when keynote speaker Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was reportedly “booed off the stage” for his provocative pro-Israel speech that most people first heard of the Washington-based group. Cruz left little doubt that he was more concerned about defending Israel than the region’s Christians when he began to “loop” ISIS and Al-Qaeda together with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran (i.e. the latter three forming “the strategic arc” that poses “the greatest danger to Israel,” as Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, has admitted to The Jerusalem Post.) But it wasn’t until the Texas senator asserted that “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state” that some of the attendees could take no more of what sounded like an AIPAC-scripted sermon and began to heckle him.
One Orthodox leader on Tuesday (Sept. 9) declared his opposition to military action to stop the Islamic State militants, a view that is not likely widely shared at the conference, Doran noted. The next day, another called the Arab-Israel conflict the root of Middle Eastern chaos. He doesn’t speak for the IDC nor his brother patriarchs, said Doran .
Yet in a Sept. 11 press release entitled “Clarifying Senator Cruz’s Walk Away from Middle Eastern Christian Summit,” Doran, who previously worked for the US Department of State, still seemed assured that he and his allegedly “non-partisan” organization speak instead for the region’s Christians. After having recounted “in tears” his inspiration for the group’s name from a 1933 letter titled “In Defense of the Jews,” the IDC executive director claimed: “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.”
Adding to Doran’s “clarification,” IDC president Toufic Baaklini noted “sadly” that “there was a small but vocal anti-Israel element in the room” who “do not represent the views of IDC.” Fittingly, the IDC press release ended by citing one of the summit’s most active speakers [.pdf] whose support for Israel has rarely, if ever, been in doubt: “As Nina Shea, who introduced Cruz later said, ‘We will not agree on territorial disputes, but we stand united against religious persecution regardless of the religion.’”
A senior fellow at the neoconservative Hudson Institute, Shea directs Hudson’s Center for Religious Freedom. A former vice chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which was once led by the pardoned pro-Israel Iran-Contra intriguer Elliott Abrams and currently chaired by a daughter of the late “true blue and white” Israel mouthpiece and infamous interventionist Tom Lantos, the senior Hudson fellow has, as one critical profile puts it, “a long track record of using human rights concerns to promote various foreign interventions favored by neoconservatives.” Significantly, the IDC summit is evidently not the first time concerns about specifically Christian suffering have been used by the neocon interventionist:
In a 2001 article for the Washington Monthly, Joshua Green related how in the mid-1990s Shea teamed up with Michael Horowitz, a former Reagan administration official, in an effort “to put the issue of Christian persecution on the map.” Green reported: “Horowitz, a Jewish neoconservative and a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, detailed the plight of persecuted Christians in Africa and the Middle East. He concluded by calling for intervention. ‘For American Jews, who owe our very lives to the open door of the blessed land,’ he wrote, ‘silence should not be an option in the face of persecutions eerily parallel to those committed by Adolf Hitler.’” According to Green, a favorite Horowitz sound bite at the time was that “Christians are the Jews of the 21st century.”
In a 2012 article entitled “What Will Become of the Middle East’s Christians?”—one of the many pieces in which Doran cites Shea’s work on Christian persecution—the IDC executive director echoes Horowitz’s favorite sound bite:
The exodus of Jews from Yemen, where they had lived for fifteen centuries before the birth of the Prophet, was not an isolated occurrence; it was repeated across the Middle East and North Africa, as these Diaspora Jews made their way, reluctantly in many cases, to Israel. Their fight for survival foreshadowed that of the more than ten million Christians of the Muslim world, who today struggle to maintain a presence and identity in the lands where they have lived for centuries.
Presumably, the reader is expected to infer Muslim persecution of Jews from Doran’s use of the word “reluctantly” as opposed to the Israeli false flag attacks that were required in at least some cases to convince those “Diaspora Jews” to flee to the newly-established “Jewish state” on Palestinian land.
A regular contributor to the neocon National Review Online, Doran also shares Shea’s favored response to the problem of Christian persecution. For instance, in an Aug. 18 op-ed piece entitled “Intervention as Duty,” the IDC executive director writes:
As I argued here last year, the intervention in the former Yugoslavia may serve as a compelling model today for Syria and now perhaps Iraq, but this would call for a willingness to see Iraq and Syria dissolved. For the moment, America clings, as it did at the outset of war in Yugoslavia, to nations that no longer exist.
In Doran’s prescription for the current crisis, one can’t help noticing the similarity with the policy recommendations of Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist formerly attached to the Foreign Ministry of Israel. In his 1982 essay “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” originally published in Hebrew by the World Zionist Organization journal, Kivunim, Yinon argued that, “The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run….”
However, if the dissolution of Syria, in accordance with Israeli strategic objectives, was indeed one of the ulterior motives behind IDC’s bringing the Middle East’s Christians together in Washington, it appears to have suffered a setback when on the final day of the summit, a delegation of Eastern Christian patriarchs met with President Obama in the White House. According to a report in Al-Akhbar English, Obama surprised his guests by telling them, “We know that President Bashar al-Assad protected Christians in Syria.” Further taken aback by Obama’s use of the term “the Syrian government” instead of “regime,” one of the attendees reportedly challenged the president: “Then you should stop talking about a moderate Syrian opposition.” Ironically, it was in this very same room four months earlier that Obama had met Ahmad Jarba, president of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) who “thanked the US for its aid to opposition rebels.” One month before that, the leader of the so-called “moderate Syrian opposition” reportedly toured the devastated Armenian Christian village of Kassab, Syria which had been attacked and occupied by the Free Syrian Army, the SNC’s armed wing, and their Al-Qaeda affiliates.
Within a week of the historic meeting of President Obama with the leaders of Eastern Christianity, a World Jewish Congress delegation led by WJC president Ronald Lauder paid a Rosh Hashanah visit to Pope Francis at his Vatican residence. As in the White House, the persecution of Christians in the Middle East dominated the discussion. According to a Sept. 18 report in Haaretz, it was the Bishop of Rome’s turn this time to adopt Horowitz’s sound bite:
Lauder and the pope mutually condemned the attacks against Christians around the world, especially in the Middle East. “In the world, there is still great suffering. First it was your turn. Now it’s our turn,” the pope told the delegation…
Strongly agreeing with the Holy Father’s comments, the WJC president extended the Horowitzian analogy:
He showed a paper bearing the Hebrew letter nun, explaining that: “It is the symbol used in Iraq and Syria to identify Christians’ houses as the yellow star was used in the past against European Jewry.”
The head of the “Diplomatic Arm of the Jewish People” concluded with a well-worn albeit spurious hasbara talking point: “The truth is that Israel is the only safe place for Christians in the Middle East.”
As implied by the Haaretz report, the WJC president—not to mention another pro-Israel interventionist par excellence—has been showing an increased concern for his Christian brethren of late. An Aug. 19 Lauder op-ed in The New York Times asks, “Who Will Stand Up for Christians?” Given the gist of the piece, however, a more candid title might have been “Why can’t the world just stop fussing about Israeli war crimes in Palestine and focus their anger instead on Christian suffering in other parts of the Middle East?” As for how to respond to the persecution of his “Christian brothers and sisters,” the self-described “Jewish leader” pointedly reminds his readers that he is writing this call to action “as a citizen of the strongest military power on earth.” Thus, similar to the fervor that preceded the Second World War, “Onward Christian Soldiers” has yet again become the rallying cry for those who seek to embroil the United States and other Western nations in another major conflict—an unnecessary “Clash of Civilizations”—likely to accomplish little beyond further advancing the hegemonic designs of Israel.