I am reproducing here an opinion piece by Tim Rutten, who is a secular, non-religious, liberal columnist for the Los Angeles News Group, which publishes (among others) the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Even if you don’t agree with eveyrthing he says (which is my case), you still need to read this article and ponder on the dangers of being silent in the face of the atrocities that are being committed against religious minorities in Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East as a whole:

What is most remarkable about the deepening crisis ema­nating from the Middle East is not the deadly sounds of gun­fire and rocketry, but the ap­palling and equally deadly si­lences concerning things the Obama administration and the West’s other democratic leaders ought to be addressing at the top of their lungs.

More important, if we are to retain any claim to the mini­mal moral authority that sim­ple decency confers, those lead­ers need to not only speak up clearly, but act with resolve and dispatch.

There has been no shortage of willfully wrong-headed — and, in many cases, repellently sinister — criticism of Israel for its monthlong defensive effort to defang the theo-fascists of Hamas who control the unfor­tunate Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The worse-than-useless secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, may re­gard the devastation there “as shame to the nations,” as he said this week, but the real shame is that virtually none of those nations expressed outrage over Hamas’ use of 1.8 million of its own people — nearly half of them children — as human shields in its unprovoked cam­paign of aggression against Is­rael. In fact, given the unavoid­able tactical realities of wag­ing war in a crowded, mainly urban environment like Gaza, what ought to be noted is that Israel inflicted fewer than 2,000 casualties in a monthlong cam­paign.

The double standard by which Israel is judged, how­ever, means that its unavoid­able campaign of self-defense continues to be denounced not only across the Islamic world, but also by the cultural and academic European elites as “genocide” and the policy of an “apartheid state.” Along with that sort of faux-moral out­rage has come a tide of overt anti-Semitism rising across Eu­rope, the reassertion of an an­cient and murderous dark­ness. The silence of President Barack Obama and his admin­istration about the incidence of anti-Semitic attacks, vandal­ism and protests across Europe over the past month is inexcus­able. So, too, indifference to the academic and cultural boycotts to which elements in our West­ern allies now are subjecting Is­rael. Do we really need to re­learn the lesson that silence in the face of this blood-soaked old evil is not an exercise in dis­cretion or diplomacy, but moral cowardice — and at whose ex­pense is our renewed educa­tion to come? There are 51 ma­jority Muslim states in the U.N., all of them to one degree or an­other oppressive and despotic. Why is the world’s only Jewish State, the Mideast’s only func­tioning democracy, the one na­tion on Earth required to prove its right to exist over and over?

This indefensible silence about the resurgence of anti-Semitism compounds its evil by making it all the easier for Washington to hold its tongue about the real atrocities occur­ring across the Middle East — an Islamic campaign of ethnic and religious cleansing unpar­alleled since the late 1940s and ’50s, when, following Israel’s establishment, Jews were ex­pelled from their ancient homes in various Arab countries. For thousands of years, vibrant Jewish communities had ex­isted in countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Iraq. After 1948, all were forced from their ancient homes — and the world said nothing.

This past week, Washington has at last been prodded into gingerly addressing events in northern Iraq, where the con­tinuing campaign by the mur­derous group calling itself the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) has expelled hundreds of thousands of Christians and tens of thousands of Ya­zidis from their ancient cities. The plight of the Yazidis is par­ticularly heart-breaking, since at least 40,000 of them have been driven onto a barren hill­ock on the plains of Nineveh and left without food and wa­ter with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Dozens of their children are dying every day, as the Obama administration wrings its hands over what can be done. ISIS at least gave the Christians the opportunity to choose between forced conver­sion to Islam and being robbed of everything they own and sent into refugee exile among the Kurds. The Yazidis, a secretive and insular people whose creed incorporates elements of ancient Mithraism and Zoroastrian­ism, are regarded as “devil wor­shipers” by the fanatics of ISIS, so their men are summarily ex­ecuted and their women forced into sexual bondage to their menfolk’s murderers.

This is all of a piece with the general silence — to which our government continues to make us all a party — about the un­precedented ethnic cleansing that Islamists are being allowed to carry out across the Mid­east. At the moment, the hor­rific situation in northern Iraq has a bare fraction of our atten­tion, but consider this: In 2000, the Christian Arab population of the Middle East was 12 mil­lion. Over the next five years, it is expected to sink to half that. When the United States in­vaded Iraq, Christians were 20 percent of the country’s popu­lation; today they’re less than 5 percent and that figure is sink­ing fast. The Palestinians, in whose cause so much of Europe now speaks with such vitriol to­ward Israel, are as guilty of eth­nic cleansing as the rest of their Islamic brethren. Fully 80 per­cent of Palestinian Christians, the people who played an out­sized role in the formulation of Palestinian national conscious­ness, now live outside the Mid­dle East. In the 1990s, there were 173,000 Christian Pales­tinians living on the West Bank, but Islamist pressure has re­duced that population to just 50,000. The situation in Gaza is even worse; there Hamas has reduced the Christian popula­tion to just a few hundred, if that. No international protests over that.

The one country in the entire Middle East where Arab Chris­tians can live and worship in freedom and prosper econom­ically is the democratic Jew­ish state of Israel. There, the Christian population has risen to 135,000 and, according to Is­raeli studies, Christian Arabs — particularly women — outper­form every other demographic group in their society in educa­tional achievement. So much for “the apartheid state.”

Perhaps the most tragic as­pect of this whole process, fa­cilitated as it is by Western si­lence and indifference, is that it signals the end of any hope for modern civil societies in the Muslim Arab world. As William Dalrymple pointed out recently in the Guardian, “It is Chris­tian Arabs who keep the Arab world ‘Arab’ rather than ‘Mus­lim.’ ” Certainly since the 19th century Christian Arabs have played a vital role in defining a secular Arab cultural identity. It is no coincidence that most of the founders of secular Arab nationalism were men like Mi­chel Aflaq — the Greek Ortho­dox Christian from Damas­cus who, with other Syrian stu­dents freshly returned from the Sorbonne, founded the Ba’ath party in the 1940s — or Faris al-Khoury, Syria’s only Christian prime minister.

It appears that the Western de­mocracies — including the United States — are prepared to watch this historic tragedy in silence. Tim Rutten is a columnist for the Los Angeles News Group. 

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