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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ross Douthat, "The Middle East’s Friendless Christians": Ignorance Is Bliss

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts."

- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Driving in central Israel this morning, I happened to notice a bumper sticker on a car in front of me. On the bumper sticker was a single word in English: "Coexist." The "C" consisted of a Muslim crescent moon, the "X" consisted of a Jewish Star of David, and the "T" consisted of a Christian cross. If you were to encounter this bumper sticker in the US, you might think nothing of it. On the other hand, try to name a country in the Middle East, other than Israel, where you can freely exhibit such a bumper sticker without being lynched. In fact, there is no other country.

In his latest New York Times op-entitled "The Middle East’s Friendless Christians," Ross Douthat seeks to explain why the Middle East's persecuted Christian minority has been largely ignored by Christians in the US. Douthat observes:

"[T]he Israel-Palestine question, with its colonial overtones, has been the left’s great obsession, whereas the less ideologically convenient plight of Christians under Islamic rule is often left untouched."

True enough. The left's hatred of the Jews supersedes all other considerations.

Next, Douthat states:

"To America’s strategic class, meanwhile, the Middle East’s Christians simply don’t have the kind of influence required to matter. A minority like the Kurds, geographically concentrated and well-armed, can be a player in the great game, a potential United States ally. But except in Lebanon, the region’s Christians are too scattered and impotent to offer much quid for the superpower’s quo. So whether we’re pursuing stability by backing the anti-Christian Saudis or pursuing transformation by toppling Saddam Hussein (and unleashing the furies on Iraq’s religious minorities), our policy makers have rarely given Christian interests any kind of due."

Here Douthat is wrong. There are some 30 million oppressed Kurds living in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, and for many decades they have been ignored by the West. Why? Because it was inconvenient to demand that the Kurds be granted independence, particularly when there are some 20 million of these Kurds living in the southeastern and eastern parts of Anatolia. The US government has consistently decided that it is better off not offending Turkey, a member of NATO, by demanding that the country's Kurds (some 25 percent of Turkey's population) be granted their fundamental rights as human beings.

Then, too, the Kurds have been ignored by the West because observing their plight in the past could have jeopardized lucrative oil drilling arrangements in Iran and Iraq.

Except in Lebanon, Christians are too scattered in the Middle East for Americans to take note? Again, not true. Copts comprise some 10 percent of Egypt's total population of some 82 million.

Douthat goes on to blame the American right for failing to take note of the tragedy befalling the Middle East's Christians:

"And the great cause of many conservative Christians in the United States is the state of Israel, toward which many Arab Christians harbor feelings that range from the complicated to the hostile."

Arab Christians harbor feelings toward Israel that "range from the complicated to the hostile"? Indeed, there are Christians in Syria who are siding with Assad, given that the alternative - ISIS or the al-Nusra Front - spells death for their communities. On the other hand, consider what Egytian Copt blogger Maikel Nabil Sand wrote of Israel in 2010:

"In reality, my support to Israel isn't a support to Israel itself more than it's a support for the values which the state of Israel represents in the region… Because the case in my view is that this is democratic and that is tyrannical, this is liberal and that is totalitarian… Therefore my bias to Israel is a bias to the democratic and the modernist values which the state of Israel represents - whether we like it or not - in the region."

Nabil is not a supporter of the Netanyahu government, but then many Israelis also stridently object to Israel's prime minister. And then there is also the Nazareth priest, Father Gabriel Naddaf, who wants Israeli Christians to serve in the IDF and establish their own political party.

Douthat would blame Senator Ted Cruz for showing insensitivity to an "an embattled religious minority" by declaring last week at a inaugural event held by an organization called "In Defense of Christians":

"Today, Christians have no greater friend than the Jewish state."

As widely reported, Cruz was booed off the stage. Well, like it or lump it, there is no place in the Middle East other than Israel where Christians are free to live their lives and practice their faith in peace and dignity. Did Cruz do something wrong by alluding to this fact? I don't think so. If Christians are to live in peace and dignity elsewhere in the Middle East, Israel must serve as an example. 

1 comment:

  1. "there is no place in the Middle East other than Israel where Christians are free to live their lives and practice their faith in peace and dignity. Did Cruz do something wrong by alluding to this fact? I don't think so."

    ... And you are entirely correct JG.

    Read Goldman's (Spengler's) 2-part rebuttal to Douthat for more on this.