Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) walked off the stage Wednesday night after being jeered by an audience of Arab Christians he had challenged to “stand with Israel.”
Cruz declared that “Christians have no greater ally than Israel” during his keynote address at a summit in Washington, D.C. hosted by the nonprofit group In Defense of Christians, according to the Daily Star, a Lebanese English-language newspaper. He began by emphasizing the need to defend Christians in the Middle East against terrorism and unite Christians and Jews.
“Tonight, we are all united in defense of Christians. Tonight, we are all united in defense of Jews,” he said, according the newspaper. “Together, against those who would persecute and murder those who dare disagree with their religious teachings.”
As the crowd began to turn against the Texas senator, he said, “If you hate the Jewish people, you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ.”
Earlier Wednesday, the conservative Washington Free Beacon had reported that the roster of speakers at the IDC summit included religious leaders allied with Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group. In a possible nod to that report, Cruz told the audience: “ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East.”
“Sometimes we are told not to loop these groups together … that we have to understand their so called nuances and differences,” Cruz said, as quoted by the Daily Star. “But hate is hate, and murder is murder. Our purpose here tonight is to highlight a terrible injustice, a humanitarian crisis.”
As the scene deteriorated, IDC’s president, Toufic Baaklini, took the microphone and implored the crowd to listen to Cruz.
“I am saddened to see that some here, not everyone, but some here, are so consumed with hate,” Cruz said. Members of the crowd shouted back at him “He should respect the Christians!” and “You will speak for yourself!”
“I will say this,” the senator continued. “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Thank you and God bless you.”
The Lebanese ambassador to the United States, Antoine Chedid, was in attendance. Cruz’s remarks prompted him to “withdraw in anger” from the room, the Daily Star reported.
Cruz released a statement after the event that accused his detractors of anti-Semitism.
“I came to this event tonight to help shine a light on the tragic persecution and slaughter of Christians by ISIS and Islamic radicals throughout the Middle East. American leaders have been far too silent as to this horrific evil,” he said as quoted by Business Insider. “But bigotry and hatred have no place in this discussion. Anti-Semitism is a corrosive evil, and it reared its ugly head tonight.”
Watch the tail end of Cruz’s speech below: