WASHINGTON — Passover and Easter — intrinsically linked in the Jewish and Christian traditions — are being celebrated this weekend. For observant Jews, Passover commemorates the Hebrews' liberation from slavery under Egypt's Pharaoh. For faithful Christians, Easter is a celebration of Jesus' resurrection from the grave and the fulfillment of a new covenant between God and man. Biblical passages in Exodus 12, Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20 describe these historical events and the reasons for festivities among people of faith. But this year, these holidays are a time of extraordinary anxiety for Christians and Jews in the Middle East.
The Egyptian Pharaohs and Roman emperors are gone. Yet Jews and Christians now living in the region must contend with new lethal threats: the hatred of radical Islamists seizing power from Tunisia to Syria; vicious sectarian cleansing; and the prospect of being incinerated by an Iranian nuclear weapon. Tragically, all this is being facilitated by the catastrophic incompetence, malfeasance, naiveté and hubris of an American president — with the complicity of the mainstream media.
In the days leading up to this year's Passover and Easter holidays, we have seen no fewer than three "leaks" of sensitive information from the U.S. government about possible Israeli plans to stop the ayatollahs in Iran from building nuclear weapons. Stories in Foreign Policy magazine, Bloomberg News and ABC News — all sourced to anonymous White House, Pentagon, State Department and congressional officials — allege that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has consummated a secret military alliance with the autocratic government in Azerbaijan to use Azeri airfields in the event of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites. When questioned about the stories, White House and State Department spokesmen claim to have "no information" to confirm the validity of the information.
That's completely disingenuous. For months, the Obama administration has been doing everything possible — overtly and covertly — to dissuade Israel from launching a pre-emptive attack on Tehran's nuclear weapons facilities before the U.S. presidential election. In February, The Washington Post claimed that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believed that an Israeli action likely would take place in April, May or June of this year. During last month's meeting with President Barack Obama, Netanyahu purportedly was told that the U.S. would not assist in a military strike on Iran and that new appropriations for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system and spare parts for Israeli air force F-15s and F-16s could be "at risk" if Israel were to act unilaterally. Now leaked cables, congressional reports and "administration sources" describe how such an attack could be conducted by prepositioning refueling and search-and-rescue assets at bases in Azerbaijan. These stories are a gift to the rulers in Tehran.
The ayatollahs' atomic bomb isn't a singular existential threat to Israel. In Egypt, radical Islamists now control Cairo's parliament and are poised to take power in next month's presidential election. Islamist candidates all talk about "renegotiating" or even abrogating the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Though Obama professes "steadfast support for Israel," he and his allies in the press have been mute about recent attacks on Israeli civilians from Gaza and Sinai.
Islamic militants in the Sinai Desert have blown up the Egyptian natural gas pipeline serving Israel and Jordan more than a dozen times in the past year. Last week, a group of armed men professing "jihad and martyrdom" surrounded and blockaded a Multinational Force and Observers base in Sinai — sequestering U.S., Spanish and Fijian troops enforcing the peace accord. Somehow these events — and a Passover-eve rocket attack on an Israeli resort in Eilat — evaded the attention of the mainstream media and officials in Washington.
The Jews of Israel and American troops deployed as "peacekeepers" in Sinai aren't the only ones facing great danger this Passover-Easter season. So, too, is every Christian in the Arab Middle East. Copts unable to flee Egypt are under increasing duress as their homes, churches and businesses are destroyed. This week, an Egyptian court sentenced a Christian teenager to three years in prison for "blasphemy" and "insulting Islam." The boy had posted a caricature of a bearded Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in a veil on Twitter.
Radical Islamists calling the shots in Tunisia and Libya now admonish the tiny Christian communities remaining in these countries to "leave or die." Only a handful of Christians remain in Iraq — once home to tens of thousands. In Syria, brutal, documented atrocities against Christians by radical Islamist "rebels" include public beheadings, rapes, looting and the intentional destruction of homes, schools and churches. The White House's reaction to all this? Instead of righteous outrage, it gives surreal silence.
According to Matthew's Gospel, Judas Iscariot sold out Jesus of Nazareth for 30 pieces of silver. What is Barack Obama's fee for selling out Christians and Israelis?
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel, the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, and the author of "American Heroes in Special Operations." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.