So, finally, we get an official posting from Robert Spencer about the Melkite Catholic patriarch, Gregory III -- several days after the story broke.
What's wrong with Spencer's posting? Let me count the ways.
1) First, Spencer waited several days to post this, and previously had only provided a "link" in an article whose wording mentioned nothing about the patriarch or the context. Would Spencer have done such a favor to anyone else who expressed the vile antisemitism and craven dhimmitude the patriarch did?
His phrasing is odd and uncharacteristic as well:
I linked to Pamela Geller's righteously indignant post on this last Sunday but have been meaning to revisit it when time permitted...
In all my years of reading Jihad Watch, I have never seen Spencer mention, and limply apologize for, not having posted something because time didn't "permit".
Second, he's not "revisiting" it. His initial linking was not a visit in the first place; it was passing the buck, and failing to inform his readership of an important instance of dhimmitude and antisemitism in a very influential figure.
Thirdly, his characterization of Geller's post -- which was appropriately outraged, and thus unremarkably welcome -- smells odd. One rarely characterizes someone or someone's expression as "righteously" anything without a hint of disapproval. One senses here a slight reproach, and perhaps we are witness to the incipient crack of yet another rift in a Spencer relationship. Spencer has burned bridges with former friends and colleagues before -- Debbie Schlussel, Michelle Malkin, Diana West, Baron Boddissey and Dymphna, and Andrew Bostom -- perhaps Pam Geller's time is not long.
2) Spencer goes into yoga pretzels scratching his head to hypothesize how he can get his patriarch out of the scalding hot water in which his alleged quotes situate him squarely:
a) Questioning the accuracy of the report -- cf. his em-dashed speculation:
...-- if this report is accurate --
Such speculation about the news sources he uses is extremely rare for Spencer, and I cannot recall a time when he has expressed such skepticism.
b) Spencer's first characterization of his patriarch's remarks of vile antisemitism and craven dhimitude is strangely mild, affecting emotionless neutrality and padded with circumlocution:
[The patriarch] has said -- if this report is accurate -- that Islamic jihad attacks against Middle Eastern Christians are actually a Zionist plot to discredit Islam. And in doing so, he has illustrated the predicament of Christians in the Middle East in ways that he perhaps did not intend.
Immediately -- after raising questions about the "accuracy" of the report -- Spencer tilts the spin of the facts toward an exculpatory explanation. The proper presentation would have been to subject such vile opinions to Spencer's usual and characteristically caustic wit and searingly no-nonsense eye for discerning good and evil -- a wit and eye Spencer never spares for any other vile antisemite or craven dhimmi. Spencer has, in fact, reversed the proper order of presentation: the exculpatory possibility should be modest and parenthetical, not primary; while the condemnation should be not only bolder but in the forefront, not tucked away in an ellliptical tail at the end of his notice (we'll get to that in a moment).
c) Next, after quoting the news article which includes the vile quotes of his patriarch, Spencer instead of leading with a round condemnation of those quotes, opts to focus his laser lens off on a red herring to fine-tune his skepticism of one particular assumption implied in the news story on patriarch:
The Daily Star story immediately follows these statements with a reminder of the recent jihad massacre in Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, implying that Gregory III intends to suggest that even that massacre was a Zionist plot.
First of all, as I said, this serves as a diversion to the central point: the vile quotes from the patriarch. Secondly, the news article's writer is, in implying that the church bombing in Baghdad was included, only logically extrapolating from the patriarch's remarks. Let us remind the reader what the patriarch said:
... violence and disturbances against Christians here and there and on an increasing level... has nothing to do with Islam. But it is actually a conspiracy planned by Zionism and some Christians with Zionist orientations and it aims at undermining and giving a bad image of Islam.
And the patriarch specifically couched this repellent musing in terms of "fundamentalism" and "terrorism" "that are masked by religion".
It is thus Spencer who is curiously stretching beyond the purport of the patriarch's remarks, not the reporter who wrote the news article -- for it is more reasonable to assume that the patriarch included the recent church bombing in Baghdad among his generally brushed "violence and disturbances against Christians here and there and on an increasing level" couched in terms of "fundamentalism and terrorism", than it is to stretch and reach for Spencer's spin.
d) Spencer then uses his diversion from the central point to go off on a skewed and precarious limb of speculations:
And that leads to the question: did the Patriarch himself even believe what he said, or were his remarks more along the lines of the American prisoners in North Korea who dutifully read the statements they were given about how wonderfully they were being treated, while signaling with eye blinks and hand gestures that they were speaking under duress from scripts prepared for them by their captors?
Could the Patriarch even have been making his explanation of the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians so absurd as to signal to the world that in Muslim countries today, non-Muslims may say anything they want to about Jews, no matter how outlandish, but cannot utter one remotely critical word about Muslims and Islam, even about how Muslims are victimizing them in the name of Islam -- for if they do, that victimization will get even worse?I have never seen Spencer reach so torturously for exculpatory possibilities with regard to any other individual or group who has expressed even milder forms of dhimmitude and antisemitism, let alone the egregiously vile form his patriarch has uttered.
As I noted in a previous article on this, Spencer similarly reached for the "he must be forced by deadly circumstances as a hostage to Muslim threats" explanation-cum-justification with regard to another Middle Eastern Christian cleric who uttered antisemitic, or semi-antisemitic, remarks -- one Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros (what is it with these Middle Eastern Christians, anyway, with their antisemitism and dhimmitude?).
While it may be conceivably understandable that a person living in a region where Muslims kill and threaten to kill you and your people would say things like Archbishop Bustros and Patriarch Gregory III have said, Spencer has never before adopted the stance that this in any way justifies or ameliorates the harm their dhimmitude is causing to the anti-jihad cause. In fact, Spencer routinely castigates those who choose to be craven and who thus as dhimmis cave to Muslim demands. Yet here, when it comes to clerics of his own personal church, Spencer becomes remarkably mild and muted.
And we should never underestimate Spencer's lawyer-like chutzpah: When a reader in the comments thread took Spencer to task for his effectively exculpatory speculations, Spencer had the gall to deny that he was reaching on a stretch.
The reader, "charleston", wrote:
Robert-I cringe reading your desperate attempts to rationalize the anti Jewish attacks by the Patriarch. Blaming Jews, to spare his Christians? Disgusting..
And Spencer responded:
"Desperate attempts to rationalize"? I don't see how calling his remarks "reprehensible" is rationalizing anything. Understanding the situation he is in is not rationalizing.
Firstly, Spencer is pointedly deflecting his "reprehensible" away from the patriarch, and endowing it with a hazy padding of impersonal generality. Secondly, he was running with his speculation, rather than sticking to the facts -- the vile quotes.
Let us examine Spencer's final paragraph more closely, with my interspersed observations:
-- i.e., "according to my unfounded specuations as to motives and context" --
the Patriarch, as absurd and outlandish as his words were,
-- notice Spencer underscoring as a reminder the exculpatory theory that since the patriarch's words are "absurd and outlandish" (not a fact, but a subjective characterization by Spencer) then they are unlikely to express the patriarch's own feelings and opinion about Jews, Muslims and terrorism --
was almost certainly trying to protect his people.
Actually, Spencer hasn't established anything close to "certainty", not even "almost". He has only been speculating. And even if the patriarch was "trying to protect his people", that still leaves us wondering why Spencer accords the patriarch that generous favor of softening his words, when he accords no other dhimmis that favor, even when they say milder things than the patriarch said.
That he would feel it necessary to do so by retailing outlandish, reprehensible and antisemitic conspiracy theories,
There's that little reminder again -- "outlandish" -- one more little nudge, right in the middle of his oh-so tough "reprehensible" sentence, to remind the reader of the supposedly unlikely conclusion that the patriarch really meant what he said, because it was so outlandish, you see, that no one in their right mind could possibly believe that, eh? Similarly, earlier in his explanation, Spencer wrote:
Maybe he really does believe that Zionists are behind the jihad against Christians, but since that is like saying that someone is a learned, thoughtful man who believes that lizard people are secretly colonizing the planet, I am compelled to search for alternative explanations.
Where has Spencer been the last ten years? Many people exist throughout the West, and the rest of the world, who believe in, and retail, such vile nonsense. Spencer here is either stuck in his explanatory vacuum, or he is trying to exploit that vacuum in this instance in order to find a way to exculpate his client -- er, I mean, his patriarch.
We would thus need actual tangible evidence, not Spencer's anxious speculations, to move us to consider the probability -- indeed, the "almost certain" probability -- that in this case the patriarch isn't one of those vile craven people who sadly populate the world, in and out of the West.
Spencer's final wrap-up of the whole sordid story is a remarkably mild nod in the general direction of disapproval:
One day, I hope that even Syria will be free enough to enable a Christian leader like the Patriarch Gregory III Lahham to acknowledge that [i.e., the truth about Muslims] in safety and without fear of violent jihadist reprisal.
In fact, there isn't even a whiff of disapproval there. He feels sorry for the patriarch, because he has decided to exculpate him, and to assume that the patriarch was lying under mortal duress (a context which, as we have already said, doesn't stop Spencer from condemning other dhimmis who don't happen to be leaders of his personal church).
The entire notice by Spencer, taken in cumulatively by the reader, is a testament to exculpation in the face of sordid facts that demand instead condemnation. And would it be asking to much if Spencer had also added a little of the salt and pepper of his scathingly dry, wry wit which, on other dhimmis, he does not spare to sprinkle? The only reason Spencer has gone out of his way to accord the patriarch this unique favor which he does not accord any other dhimmi, even milder dhimmis, must be because this partriarch is Spencer's patriarch of his personal faith, the Melkite Catholic church. If anyone can think of a better explanation for Spencer's strange behavior in this regard, let me know. Meanwhile, read what a lowly civilian commenter, "Sansantiago", wrote on that thread, and compare its searing moral and intellectual clarity with Spencer's pitiful and, frankly, unseemly yoga pretzels.