US Senator Ted Cruz was booed off the stage at conference in solidarity with Middle East Christians on Wednesday after delivering a pro-Israel speech.
Cruz, a Republican from Texas, was a keynote speaker at a Washington, DC, gala intended to raise awareness and support for the persecuted Christian minorities in the Middle East.
He was heckled by the audience after saying that “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state.”
In a video posted online, some audience members attending the gathering, titled “In Defense of Christians Summit,” can be heard booing the senator, yelling “stop it” and “enough.”
Cruz attempted to continue his address, saying: “Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps. If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ. And the very same people who persecute and murder Christians right now, who crucify Christians, who behead children, are the very same people who target Jews for their faith, for the same reason.”
The heckling, booing and calls of “leave the stage” grew louder as members of the audience became increasingly agitated.
“I am saddened to see that some here, not everyone, but some here, are so consumed with hate,” the senator said before being interrupted again by calls for him to leave the stage.
‘If you do you not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you’
Cruz in his speech grouped Hezbollah and the Syrian government together with organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
“Sometimes we are told not to loop these groups together, that we have to understand their so-called nuances and differences,” he said. “But we shouldn’t try to parse different manifestations of evil that are on a murderous rampage through the region.”
A number of Christians in Lebanon and Syria are in loose alliance with the Syrian government and its Shiite Hezbollah allies in pushing back against a motley assortment of rebels that include Sunni Islamist groups that have targeted Christians.
In Defense of Christians president Toufic Baaklini joined Cruz on stage to request that the senator be allowed to speak. But Cruz, who had seemingly had enough, told the audience, “If you do you not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Thank you and God bless,” before walking off the stage.
In response to the disruption, Baaklini issued an official statement saying: “A few politically motivated opportunists chose to divide a room that for more than 48 hours sought unity in opposing the shared threat of genocide, faced not only by our Christian brothers and sisters, but our Jewish brothers and sisters and people of other all other faiths and all people of good will.”
Baaklini made it clear that the participants who hijacked Cruz’s address did not adhere to IDC’s principles and were no longer welcome at the summit.
Cruz is considered a staunch ally of Israel in Congress.
JTA contributed to this report.