The Christian communities of Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon are well on the way to joining their Jewish cousins. The Jewish communities of these states predated Islam by a millennium, and were vibrant until the 20th century. But the Arab world’s war on the Jewish state, and more generally on Jews, wiped out the Jewish populations several decades ago.
And now the Christian communities, which like the Jews, predate Islam, are being targeted for eradication.
The ongoing genocide of Middle Eastern Christians at the hands of Sunni jihadists is a moral outrage. Does it also affect Israeli national interests? What do we learn from the indifference of Western governments – led by the Obama administration – to their annihilation? True, after years of deliberately playing down the issue and denying the problem, the Obama administration is finally admitting it exists.
Embarrassed by the US House of Representatives’ unanimous adoption of a resolution last month recognizing that Middle Eastern Christians are being targeted for genocide, the State Department finally acknowledged the obvious on March 25, when Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Islamic State is conducting a “genocide of Christians, Yazidis and Shi’ites.”
Kerry’s belated move, which State Department lawyers were quick to insist has no operational significance, raises two questions.
First, what took the Obama administration so long? Persecution of Christians in Iraq began immediately after the US-led coalition brought down Saddam Hussein in 2003. With the rise of Islamic State in 2012, the process of destroying the Christian community went into high gear. And now these ancient communities are on the brink of extinction.
In Iraq, Christians comprised 8 percent of the population in 2003. Today less than 1% of Iraqis are Christians. In Syria, the Christian community has lost between half and two-thirds of its members in the past five years.
One of the appalling aspects of ISIS’s deliberate, open targeting of Christians for destruction is how little resistance it has received from local Sunni populations. As Raymond Ibrahim from the David Horowitz Freedom Center has scrupulously documented, the local Sunnis have not stood up for their Christian neighbors, who have lived side-by-side with them for hundreds of years. Rather, in areas that have been conquered by ISIS, the local Sunnis have collaborated with their genocidal masters in raping and murdering Christian neighbors, plundering their property, destroying their churches, and driving them from their ancestral homes.
Although precise data is hard to come by, it is clear that thousands of Christians have been slaughtered. Thousands of Christian women and girls have been sold as sex slaves in ISIS slave markets, subjected to continuous, violent rape and beatings. Nuns and priests have been enslaved, crucified, mutilated, kidnapped and held for ransom, as have lay members of Christian communities. Christians have been burned alive.
For years, the administration said that the persecution doesn’t amount to genocide because according to ISIS’s propaganda, Christians are allowed to remain in their homes if they agree to live as dhimmis – that is, without any human rights, and subjected to confiscatory taxation.
But as Nina Shea from the Hudson Institute has reported, these claims were shown to be false in Mosul, Nineveh and other places where ISIS has claimed that such practices were instituted.
The jihadist genocide of Christians isn’t limited to Iraq and Syria. Boko Haram – ISIS’s affiliate in Nigeria – is undertaking a systematic campaign to annihilate Christianity in Africa. ISIS’s affiliates in Sinai and Libya have similarly targeted Christians, staging mass beheadings and other monstrous acts.
And of course, a region needn’t be under direct ISIS control for Christians to be targeted for destruction. The Easter massacre in Pakistan was further evidence that wherever radical Islamists gain power, they use it to murder Christians.
And as Larry Franklin from the Gatestone Institute noted in a recent article, the exodus of Christians from the Palestinian Authority is the direct consequence of deliberate persecution of Christians by the PA.
Given the prevalence of Christian persecution, why is the West – which is overwhelmingly Christian – so reticent about mentioning it? And why are Western leaders loathe to do anything to stop it? There are two ways to end genocide. First, you can defeat those conducting it on the battlefield.
If you destroy the forces conducting the genocide, then the genocide ends.
The second way you can stop genocide is by evacuating the targeted population and providing its members with refuge.
After stipulating that ISIS is carrying out a genocide, Kerry made clear that the US will not defeat ISIS to end it. Instead, Kerry said, “We must bear in mind… that the best response to genocide is a reaffirmation of the fundamental right to survive of every group targeted for destruction. What Daesh [ISIS] wants to erase, we must preserve. That requires defeating Daesh, but it also requires the rejection of discrimination and bigotry.”
Kerry then explained that the US’s plan is to cultivate the formation of a multicultural society in Syria. Given the brutal nature of the war, Kerry’s plan is tantamount to saying the US intends to defeat ISIS and rescue those it is currently exterminating by bringing unicorns and leprechauns to the slave markets of Raqqa. Substantively, Kerry’s plan is to deny Christians refuge, and to abandon them to the mercy of their murderers.
While delusional, Kerry’s statement was in line with the Obama administration’s timid, feckless military campaign against ISIS. Everyone knows that the US military could take down ISIS in a matter of weeks if Obama ordered it to do so.
But rather than act decisively, the US has limited its operations to timorous aerial bombing.
By conducting a barely there campaign, Obama tells the world that although he will be happy to take credit for any defeat ISIS suffers, he will not allow the US to lead the fight against the jihadist death machine.
As for providing refuge to the populations targeted with genocide, the raw data make clear that Obama does just the opposite. He is providing refuge for Sunni Muslims, who are not being targeted for genocide, which is being conducted by Sunni Muslims.
As Ibrahim has documented, although Christians made up 10% of the Syrian population in 2011, they comprise a mere 2.7% of the Syrian refugees the Obama administration has allowed into the US. And when presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz called for the US to provide refuge to Christians, who pose no security threat and are targeted with genocide and persecution while banning Muslim immigration, Obama accused him of bigotry.
Despite the fact that FBI Director James Comey told Congress that the US lacked the capacity to effectively screen Muslims from Syria for ties to jihadist groups, Obama said that a policy of saving those marked for extinction over those who come from the population conducting the genocide is “shameful,” and “not American.”
Beyond refusing to take the necessary steps to ensure that persecuted Christians are rescued from annihilation, the State Department has been rejecting visa requests from Christian activists and leaders from persecuted communities to visit the US to share information about their suffering with the American public. This, at the same time that the administration has welcomed Muslim jihad sympathizers, including Muslim Brotherhood members, to Washington.
For instance, last May, the State Department denied a visa to Sister Diana Momeka, an Iraqi nun and ISIS survivor. Momeka was the only Christian member of a delegation of persecuted minorities. Representatives of every other group received visas. It took a public outcry to force the State Department to reverse its decision.
Also last year, the State Department gave visas to all Muslim regional governors in northern Nigeria to participate in a conference sponsored by the US Institute of Peace. They denied a visa to the region’s only Christian governor, Jonah David Jang. Christian activists alleged that Jang was denied a visa because he spoke up to US officials about anti-Christian persecution in 12 states in northern Nigeria that have instituted Sharia law.
What accounts for this behavior? The answer is not ignorance, but ideologically- motivated bigotry. The Aid to the Church in Need organization explained in its 2015 report on Christian persecution, “Christians have been targeted [because]… Christianity [is seen] as a foreign ‘colonial’ import. Christians are seen as linked to the West, which is perceived as corrupt and exploitative.”
In another report, the group explained that the Western media has avoided covering the story of the Islamic genocide of Middle East Christians because of “misplaced embarrassment about the 19th-century colonial powers evangelizing ‘the natives’ in far flung places.”
In other words, Middle Eastern Christians, whose communities predate Islam, are targeted because they are perceived as Western implants.
And the West ignores their suffering, because the Left in the West perceives them as Western implants.
In both cases, prejudices, rooted on the one hand in jihadist Islam, and on the other hand in Western self-hatred and post-colonialism, reach the same bigoted conclusion: the only “authentic” people in the Middle East are Muslims.
Everybody else is a colonial implant. And as such, they deserve what they get.
This then brings us back to Israel, and the Jews.
The same ideological prejudice that refuses to recognize that the Islamic State is Islamic, refuses to recognize that jihad is unique to Islam, refuses to recognize that Christians as religious minorities are being targeted for annihilation, and refuses to recognize that the Christians of the Middle East are ancient peoples who have lived in their communities since the dawn of Christianity, also refuse to recognize the rights of the Jewish people as the indigenous people of the land of Israel.
This is the reason that Western governments, led by the Obama administration, are unwilling to defeat ISIS. This is why they are giving preference to Muslim asylum-seekers, who they are incapable of screening, over Christians, who it is unnecessary to screen.
This is the reason that the same governments are far more willing to attack Jews for living beyond the 1949 armistice lines, in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria – the cradle of Jewish civilization and the heartland of the land of Israel, than they are willing to end their support for the PA which sponsors and celebrates terrorism. This is why the same governments eagerly embrace every allegation of Israeli racism, real or imagined, while they ignore, or even fund racist Palestinian efforts to deny Jewish history, a history which leads to the inevitable conclusion that the Jews are the indigenous people of the land of Israel.
The reason Obama refuses to protect Middle East Christians from extinction is because he cannot rescue them – either on the ground or by ensuring they can flee to safety – without abandoning his ideological faith that the only “natives” of the Middle East are the Muslims.