US President Barack Obama takes the stage to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, February 5, 2015. Flanking Obama are Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey (L) and Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Obamaphobes are over the moon these days. From almost every perspective, President Barack Obama’s latest attempt to address the issue of Islamic terrorism has boomeranged. His problem is simple: he is a would-be intellectual who thinks that historical comparisons and logical analysis plus an excellent speech can change things.
On occasion of course, a speech can indeed change the course of events. Churchill’s famous “We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall never surrender.” Roosevelt’s famous “Four Freedoms” speech, or the pithy statement: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
But for once, Obama said the right thing – and is being crucified for it. Obama actually said that Christianity had committed terrible crimes in the name of Jesus.Keep up to date on the latest opinion pieces on our new Opinion & Blogs Facebook page
Let’s look at the relevant quote, taken from his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington recently. In an attempt to show that religions have been misused, or used for violence, he said: “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.
“So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. No God condones terror. No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.”
Jews know very well what toll the Crusades took of the Jewish communities of Europe. The anti-Muslim crusade to “free the Holy Places” was also a way to burn not only Jews, but the paper records they held of the debts owed them by the “valiant chivalrous knights.” These men from the then primitive and ignorant West were no less barbaric than Islamic State. Though glorified in Western mythology, they were vulgar, mostly illiterate gangsters, out for plunder.
Not only did the Western (Roman Catholic) Crusaders murder, drown and burn Jews, they committed disgusting crimes against their Byzantine fellow Christian rivals, Greek Orthodox Constantinople first and foremost. In ravaging the great and beautiful center of the more civilized Eastern Christianity, they killed indiscriminately. Literally rivers of blood ran in the storied streets. Any woman of any age was raped, including nuns in their cloistered convents and in the icon-rich churches. After raping the nuns, the chivalrous knights raped the magnificent Hagia Sophia, still a church then, and every other ornate Greek Catholic church in the area, stripping them of icons, and of every single ounce of gold and silver, and also of the “holy relics” of Christian saints.
The Crusader barbarians murdered Jews, priests, nuns and ordinary Christian men and women. They excelled at rapine, pillage and desecration of the bodies of fellow Christians and their holy places. The sacking of Constantinople took place in 1204 at the end of the fourth crusade, which was initiated by Pope Innocent III, and led by men like Marquis Boniface (the name means “doer of good”) of Montferrat, and other cross-wielding Christians.
So why are the Obamaphobes having a field day? He merely spoke the truth. Why are commentators quoting Bernard Lewis out of context to whitewash these murderers who, they say, were only engaged in a “defensive war?” Again, Obama forgot one minor detail: he is the president of the United States, an overwhelmingly Christian country. Separation of Church and State in the US does not vitiate the fact that Christian holidays are the official holidays.
People live by a Christian calendar plus some days ordained by the civic religion such as Independence Day, Thanksgiving (also a Christian innovation from Puritan New England) and days marked by memorials of different types. Just as Israel lives by the Hebrew calendar.
To compare sins committed in the name of Jesus with sins committed by Islamic State is to wave a red flag in front of every Christian. The “innocent” Obama, desperately trying to separate Islam from Islamic terrorism, only made things worse for himself. In fact he hoisted himself on his own cross.
History will judge whether Obama’s determined refusal to say “Islamic evil” will succeed in preventing the Islamic world from seeing itself at war with the West. In his recent Washington conference he again could not say “Islamist terror,” or even “jihadist terror.” Future historians will decide whether he succeeded in separating the good guys from the bad guys.
Right now, I doubt it. I am not alone. Staunch former Obama supporters have spoken out against his not-fooling- anyone euphemisms. He looks weak, and arrogantly self-righteous. Even if he did speak the truth about the Crusades, it was an act offensive to all non-history buffs – that is, to the not-silent majority in the US and perhaps throughout Christendom.
Obama has yet to learn, after six years in office, that bowing to Islamic leaders in Saudi Arabia while boycotting the anti-Muslim Charlie Hebdo march in Paris wins him no friends. It looks like political cowardice. It leaves the United States appearing weaker from day to day.
To honor repressive states with visits and then blame “repression” as feeding into IS recruitment is plain-and-simple hypocrisy.
The president was correct in his irrelevant historical comparison. In his semi-autistic, self-contradictory approach to the world, he weakens the entire West, including Israel. What a historic shame that the man who was to bring hope to all Americans, has brought disaster after disaster.
The author served in the offices of prime ministers David Ben-Gurion and Levin Eshkol. He earned a PhD degree in history and political science at Columbia University, and was founding dean of the Rothberg International School. 2avrahams@ gmail.com.