Hatred, Bigotry and hypocrisy at the IDC Conference
Elias Bejjani/If any one wants really to see, hear and sense actual hatred, vindictiveness, anger, bigotry and lack of Christian faith, I advice him/her to watch Patriarch Laham in both his pro-Axis of Evil interview with Marcel Kaniem, as well as his “Assadi” charade of hatred at the conference. His conduct and rhetoric could be any thing but not Christian by any means. Anyhow he is not much different in this mercenary love for Assad than the Syrian Sunni Mufti. In reality all the clergymen from all faiths in the Arab countries are puppets and trumpets to the regimes’ rulers. The only exception was the Maronite Church, but patriarch Raei ruined it completely and joined the flock. In conclusion any Lebanese who does not see what was the conference really all about must be selectively deaf, blind and in love with the Axis of Evil.
An Evil Of Axis Conference and Not a Christian One
Now that the gathering of mercenaries, Pharisees and tax collectors that was held in Washington between 09-12 September/14 under the tag of: ‘In Defense of Christians’, is over, we can say with a free conscience based on its agenda, rhetoric and out come that it was not Christian by an means or standards. Simply it was a pro Axis of Evil charade no more no less. The main objective that made Mr. Chakoury, the African-Lebanese millionaire finance this conference and pay five million dollars was to advocate for the Axis Of Evil countries and organizations, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, and portray them as the mere protectors for Christians in particular and all the other minorities in the Middle East in general. This false and evil allegation which is odd, untrue and fabricated was uttered loudly, but stupidly by the derailed clergymen and politicians whose political background boldly tells their affiliations with the axis in the capacity of mere mercenaries and mouthpieces. In conclusion, the conference failed to achieve its main aim even with the media extra ordinary efforts of the LBC via Mr. Marcel Ghaniem. Sadly the conference that carried a Christian name and agenda was void from Christianity and its holy messages of love, forgiveness, tolerance, respect of others, peace, freedom and transparency.
We Do Not Trust Or Support the So called Levant Christian Conference
It does need a researcher or a philosopher to learn that the Levant Washington Christian Conference has nothing to do with Christianity or with defending Levant Christians’ existence, safety and future in the Middle East.
In our own opinion and analysis it is a fishy, suspicious and camouflaged gathering.It has raised among many Lebanese patriots in both Lebanon and Diaspora tons of fears, dire suspicions and doubtful questions in regards to its actual hidden aims and objectives.These hidden aims and objectives in our own analysis serve the Iranian-Syrian Axis Of evil agenda. Accordingly we do not trust or support this conference and strongly believe that it does not address the actual needs of the Levant Christians, nor it addresses their fears, agony and aspirations.
In conclusion a wolf can’t be trusted to protect the sheep.
May Almighty God safeguards the Levant Christians from the hidden agenda of this conference.
Background and related openions
Bigotry behind the cassock
Tony Badran/Now Lebanon
What the IDC conference tells us about the anti-Sunni, pro-Assad messaging campaign being waged in Washington
Middle East Patriarchs meet with President Obama at the White House on 11 September (Image via Al-Hurra YouTube)
Last week, an indignant audience including prelates and leaders of the Eastern Christian churches, booed Senator Ted Cruz off the stage while he was speaking in Washington at the gala dinner for a conference held by the In Defense of Christians (IDC) organization. Ted Cruz, well-known for his fiercely uncompromising support for Israel as well as for religious freedom worldwide, told the assembled representatives of Middle Eastern Christians that they had no better friend than the Jewish state.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat stirred a significant debate on the subject when he criticized Cruz severely for his behavior. In Douthat’s opinion, the conference was “an ecumenical affair,” held by an “embattled religious minority” attempting “to organize to save itself from outright extinction.” Senator Cruz, according to Douthat, politicized what was an innocent moral endeavor aimed at raising awareness for and solidarity with the plight of Middle Eastern Christians.
Douthat’s view, however, reflects a widespread American naiveté about the sly ways of Middle East dictators, who have learned that paying lip service to Western values, for which, in truth, they have nothing but contempt, can prompt the US to let down its guard. As it turns out, the IDC conference was a thoroughly political enterprise – serving as a vehicle to solicit US backing for an anti-Sunni sectarian alignment led by Iran and prosecuted by its murderous lieutenant in Damascus. The Bashar al-Assad regime duped Douthat with surprising ease, and the success of the con should be studied by anybody interested in relations between the US and the Middle East.
In order to fully understand the purpose of the IDC affair, it needs to be placed in the context of the intense messaging operation that the Syrian regime and its allies are currently engaged in. The talking points of the campaign were outlined in a report in the pro-Assad and pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar. The report came out after the incident with Sen. Cruz and after a clerical delegation met with President Barack Obama and presented him with a unified position paper.
The report, which Al-Akhbar says is based on information obtained from sources in the clerical delegation, highlights four main points from the meeting. First, it quotes a participant in the meeting claiming that Obama told the delegation: “we know that President Bashar Assad protects Christians.” This claim was repeated by pro-Assad Melkite Patriarch Gregory Lahham on a regime TV station, which suggests that he was the source behind Al-Akhbar’s report. (Lahham has previously been accused by a French Catholic bishop of playing the role of Assad representative at the Vatican.) Second, the US president, the report underscores, did not refer to the Syrian “regime” but rather to the Syrian “government,” implying legitimacy. Third, one member of the delegation – most likely Lahham – told Obama, “you should stop talking about a moderate Syrian opposition.” Fourth, after Obama explained that the purpose of striking the Islamic State (ISIS) was to “help continue the political process in Syria,” he allegedly added, “we made mistakes in Iraq that we will not repeat [in Syria],” in reference to the need for preserving “state institutions.”
Whether Obama did indeed make any of these points is up to the White House to deny or confirm. What is clear, however, is that the Al-Akhbar report reflects Assad’s messaging campaign, which the clerical delegation dutifully carried to Washington. Its substance, in brief, is that the US should partner with Assad as the legitimate government of Syria and protector of Christians. There are no “moderate” Sunni rebels, and the US should not partner with them. Rather, it should partner with legitimate “state institutions,” and not repeat the mistakes made in Iraq. Indeed, as another report in Al-Modon added, the delegation called on Obama to partner with “governments and regular armies.” Al-Akhbar noted that at this point, Obama highlighted US support to the Lebanese Armed Forces as “the best response against ISIS in Lebanon.”
These are the same talking points that the Assad regime and its Iranian and Lebanese allies have been feverishly reciting in recent days and weeks. Aside from interviews Syrian officials gave to US news outlets, the regime reportedly dispatched a letter to members of Congress, including John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi. The letter emphasized the same line the Church leaders carried: there are no moderate rebels, and the US should cooperate with the state. Assad’s Lebanese ally, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil delivered the exact same message at the International Conference for Peace and Security in Iraq, which was held in Paris this past Monday. Bassil’s prepared remarks mirrored the talking points Al-Akhbar highlighted in its report. Bassil urged the international community to work with regular armies. He stressed that counterterrorism operations on the ground need to be done by legitimate governments and regular armed forces. He also highlighted the need for a simultaneous political process, and underscored the primacy of protecting minorities.
It is in this context that the IDC’s clerical delegation should be understood. It was but another facet of the regime’s information operation; an additional avenue to deliver, both to Obama and the US public (especially on the right), the very talking points that the Syrian regime and its allies have been systematically putting out: the US should partner with Assad, the “protector” of Christians.
The reported ties of some of the clerics and financiers of the conference to Assad and his allies did not bother in the least those who rose to its defense. But they didn’t even stop to consider the paradox inherent in the message they’re championing. For even as they warn against relegating Christians to dhimmi status – the status of a “protected” community under strict Islamic rule – the clerics seem to have no problem selling Washington on Assad’s “protection” of Christians. Put differently, this was not a message of universal rights and citizenship. Rather, it was a petition to Washington to underwrite an alliance with a specific political-sectarian camp – a camp, led by Iran, that is engaged in the slaughter and subjugation of Sunni citizens.
The problem, then, was not only the bigotry Lahham and other conference attendees displayed toward Jews at the gala dinner. Rather, it was the bigotry against Sunnis, all while hiding behind cassocks, crosses, and the rhetoric of tolerance.
What’s more, if there aren’t moderate Sunnis, as one of the Christian Patriarchs reportedly told Obama, then how are Middle Eastern Christians going to continue living in the region? If the proposition is an alliance with the Iran-Assad camp, under an American umbrella, then that entails a permanent state of war with the Sunnis, whose slaughter and forced subjugation are to be considered licit.
Despite the pretenses of the conference and the clergymen who promoted this message, and those who defended it, not all Middle Eastern Christians see it this way. Prominent Christian political figures and intellectuals in Lebanon criticized the IDC, and have rejected the call to align with Assad. They note that Christianity has survived for millennia and does not need to, and in no way should, cast its lot with murderous thugs, and deny Sunnis their rights to live free, in order to carry on.
Douthat lamented that “2,000 years of Christian history in the Middle East” now risks ending “in blood and ash and exile,” blaming Ted Cruz and those on the right who criticized the conference. Christian history in the region survived countless hardships just fine. It doesn’t need the so-called protection of a two-bit crime family, let alone the terror-sponsoring Khomeinist state. If these leaders of the Eastern Churches have decided that peddling to Washington a sectarian alliance with a camp that has exiled and spilled the blood of hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims is the way to go, then it is they who are responsible for their political choices. Their message lacks both moral and strategic standing. Which means that those Americans who defended it were engaging in purely sectarian behavior – behavior distinctly at odds with American values and traditions.
**Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets @AcrossTheBay.
Ted Cruz: A Man of Principle
Middle East Christian Committee (MECHRIC)
September 17, 2014
As the public opinion of Congress sinks to new lows, we see in Ted Cruz, the Texas Senator, the rare qualities of strength of character, intelligence and leadership so lacking in modern politics. His detractors call him a demagogue and an extremist and resort to character assassination because they are so frightened by the power of his convictions, moral clarity and lack of political correctness. His style resonates with the American public and is reflected in his meteoric rise in the Senate.
And so we see in James Zogby’s attack on Senator Cruz (Ted Cruz: The Dangers of not Listening) published yesterday more of the obfuscation, double standards and out right bigotry against what he calls ‘Arab Christians’ and their natural allies in Israel. Mr. Zogby accuses Senator Cruz of being a poor listener and exhibiting insensitivity to the concerns of the large crowd that gathered last week in Washington, DC for the ‘In Defense of Christians’ conference. Senator Cruz was the keynote speaker at the IDC conference on Wednesday evening at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.
Mr. Zogby’s beef with Senator Cruz stems from the latter’s statement that “Christians have no better ally than the Jewish State” to which he was booed by activists in the gathering. He followed by stating the obvious that “those who hate Jews hate Christians” which was also followed by booing. These forthright pronouncements should be self-evident to the many Middle Eastern Christian gathered that night but their political masters in Iran, Syria and Lebanon would hold them responsible for failing to object. Anyone who even cursorily follows current events knows that the native Christian numbers throughout the Middle East are falling dramatically as a result of Islamic Fundamentalism with one glaring exception: Israel. There the numbers of the faithful are increasing, churches, schools and other institutions are thriving and the Palestinian Christians are even serving in the Israeli Defense Forces.
The attendees know these facts and so does Mr. Zogby who is a well-known lobbyist for various Arab interests. Proclaiming them publicly, however, would cause potentially grave consequences for the attendees who hold positions of power in their native lands-read: politicians, businessmen and high ranking clergy- so they shut their mouths to the persecutions and murders carried out by their political patrons in both Iran and Damascus. Worse, they rush to defend this Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah axis of evil whenever it is called out by those who really know what is happening in the region and Senator Cruz is most definitely a well-informed leader and listens very well contrary to the assertions of Mr. Zogby.
Senator Cruz is a regular attendee at the Coptic Solidarity Convention which is held annually in Washington. Through his involvement with both Coptic Solidarity and the Middle East Christian Committee (MECHRIC) and due to his bright intellect and faith Mr. Cruz is recognized as an expert on Middle Eastern affairs and has been extremely concerned about the persecution of the indigenous Christians and other non-Muslim minorities in the region for some time. For Mr. Zogby to proclaim the ‘ignorance and bigotry’ of Senator Cruz is disingenuous, untrue and reflective of his Arab nationalist mindset which was honed over many decades by defending and promoting the most odious characters and regimes in the Arab world. Regimes such as Saudi Arabia that forbid the practice of Christianity outright, persecute women, moderate Muslims and anyone that doesn’t toe the Salafist line. What hypocrisy!
Now we are to believe that Mr. Zogby is a Christian activist and Senator Cruz a shameless bigot who knows nothing of the Middle East and ‘Arab’ Christians when the opposite is true. Senator Cruz knows that there are indeed Arab Christians but he also is well aware of the pre Arab ethnic identities of most of the Christians of the Middle East. He knows that the liturgical language of the Maronites and Assyro-Chaldeans is Syriac and that many Assyrians in Iraq still speak the language of Christ. He knows that the Copts of Egypt are definitely non-Arab and have suffered for centuries because of their faith, language and culture as have all of the Christians of the Middle East. He is well aware that Copts had their tongues cut off for speaking Coptic after the conquest of the seventh century, do you Mr. Zogby?
Zogby claims in an earlier piece promoting the IDC conference that he is concerned about ‘Arab’ Christians while denying the ancestry of the vast majority who are not. Obviously he doesn’t believe in the Western virtue of diversity choosing to lump all the Middle Eastern Christians under the label of Arabs. This is bigotry bordering on fascism. While the Christians of the Middle East have contributed greatly to the Arab world and in certain times were broadly respected, they have suffered dearly to preserve their religion and culture over the centuries. History is replete with examples of pogroms, slaughters and genocides too numerous to mention. Mr. Zogby can libel Senator Cruz all he wants but the facts are clear. To point out these facts does not make Senator Cruz a bigot, a hater or anything but a truth teller. After all, a basic tenet of Christianity is to bear witness to the truth. The newly minted Christian activist James Zogby should understand this fact quite well.
Mr. Zogby laments that the Middle East is a region of which we know so little imploring us to learn more of the people, culture and social dynamics at work in each country of the region. How can this happen when we have the likes of Mr. Zogby purposefully hiding truths, obfuscating facts and slandering brave leaders like Senator Cruz? The reality of Jihadism is now a worldwide problem that will take bold and courageous leadership to confront and to ultimately defeat. Indeed, moderate Muslims are sounding the same alarm. Middle Eastern Christianity now hangs in the balance. Its leaders can rise to the challenge and act as St. Paul did while proclaiming the good news or they can aid and abet Saul. If they choose the former course, they will have no greater ally than Senator Ted Cruz.
A chronicle of Christian death foretold
By: Basem Shabb/The Daily Star
The In Defense of Christianity conference recently held in Washington D.C. was a success for some because of the participation of all Eastern Christian sects.
Its purpose was to raise awareness of Christian suffering in the Middle East and to rally Western support for Arab Christian communities.
The participants had made numerous calls to help fellow Christians in the face of adversity. However, the inflammatory address of Senator Ted Cruz, who stated that Arab Christians had no better friend than Israel, unleashed a powerful anti-American and anti-Israeli reaction among the participants. Cruz implied that this reaction was anti-Semitic. Though the organizers tried to minimize the damage, the incident brought to light deeper issues of distrust and resentment.
Ever since the invasion of Iraq, Christians throughout the Middle East have blamed the United States for the forced migration of Iraqi Christians. As the Arab Spring degenerated into a civil war in Syria, Christians fell prey to sectarian strife and increasing Islamist radicalization. American disengagement and Western indifference further alienated Eastern Christians.
The drift away from the West accelerated as many Christians took sides with the anti-Western Shiite-dominated axis of Iran, Bashar Assad and Hezbollah. The clergy reflected this tilt by showing indifference to Sunni suffering – for instance after the chemical attack in Ghouta last year – blaming the opposition.
Many clergymen have also espoused strange conspiracy theories. Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako proclaimed only days before the IDC conference that ISIS was an American creation. Others have stated openly to European diplomats that there is a Jewish and American plot to depopulate the Middle East of its Christians. Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Lahham, in response to Cruz’s inflammatory remarks, accused the U.S. of being responsible for evicting the Jews from the Arab states.
Such displays of anti-Western, anti-Jewish sentiment makes it difficult for the U.S. administration or Congress to show solidarity with and empathy for Arab Christians. Accusations of anti-Semitism by Cruz tainted the conference and swayed media away from a defense of Christianity.
Lee Smith, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, implied it was not easy protecting the Christians of the Middle East. “Too many of the priests, prelates and patriarchs from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq … have also identified themselves as supporters of the Iranian axis in the Middle East. ISIS is a murderous group, but so is the regime in Tehran and so are its clients, chief among them Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Smith wrote.
Jean Aziz, a commentator for the pro- Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper wrote that Cruz’s appearance had been a trap that the participants had escaped by booing the senator off the stage. However, Aziz later conceded the serious negative consequences of the episode for Eastern Christianity. If it was a trap, it succeeded in distancing Eastern Christians from the West.
Despite the fact that many Arab Christians may believe that the West, and the United States in particular, is responsible for their misfortunes, the IDC conference in Washington was an attempt to garner support among Americans. The Greek Orthodox representative at the meeting, Bishop Joseph Zehlawi, did not seem to have much hope, discourteously saying in an interview that Arab Christians were speaking to the deaf.
Many such statements, however, were meant more to appease a populist mood back home. How else can one explain the participation of anti-American politicians, journalists and clergymen at the IDC conference? One wonders whether such anti-American views were expressed directly to Obama when he met with the assembled clerics at the White House.
The fact of the matter is that the IDC conference may mark the beginning of the end for the West’s affinity for Eastern Christianity. The gradual erosion of Western culture in the Levant and Lebanon has culminated in a schism with the West. In fact, both the March 8 and March 14 alignments in Lebanon concur in rejecting direct Western military intervention against ISIS. Both subscribe to the view that Western action is defined solely by interest. No attempt was made to invoke a common heritage that Arab Christians share with the West.
This position of seeking help but refusing direct Western intervention and protection seemed perplexing. Instead, Christians have entrusted their fate to shaky regional alliances and local governments, many of which are not particularly concerned whether Arab Christians survive in the region. It is interesting that other communities in the region, such as the Kurds and the Shiites, have been less self-conscious about their ties to the West, asking for military intervention, even as Christians have recklessly abandoned these historic ties.
Eastern Christianity should not have portrayed itself as a vanishing species, but as an outpost of Western values and heritage that is today in peril. Should Eastern Christianity disappear, Western culture would disappear too in the East. That should have been the message of the conference.
Eastern Christianity may have reached a point of no return. It has mortgaged its future to an alliance headed by Iran and backed by Russia, even as it has distanced itself from moderate Sunnis. The IDC conference has surely shed a light on Christian suffering but it remains doubtful that it has revived Western interest in Eastern Christianity. What was construed as sympathy may have degenerated into pity, the worst sentiment.
**Basem Shabb is the Protestant representative from Beirut in the Lebanese Parliament. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.