If you trust the major headlines, the big news out of the United Nations is that the UN General Assembly just voted overwhelmingly to reprimand the U.S. over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. “U.N. Vote Rebukes U.S. for Jerusalem Move,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Defying Trump, U.N. General Assembly Condemns U.S. Decree on Jerusalem,” reports the New York Times.
As bean-counting goes, that’s an accurate depiction of Thursday’s UN-as-usual vote, to which these headlines refer. But I’d say they’ve missed the real story. There’s nothing novel about the thug-heavy majority of the UN’s 193 member states ganging up on the U.S and Israel. The thunderbolt event here is the U.S. response, in which Ambassador Nikki Haley, with the clear backing of President Trump, delivered a brilliant and clarifying rebuke to the sententious bigots of the UN.
Let’s start with some background on this showdown, which President Reagan’s formidable first ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, would have recognized as the 21st-century spawn of the scene she described in a 1989 article in Commentary magazine, titled “How the PLO Was Legitimized” (“through international diplomacy — reinforced by murder,” wrote Kirkpatrick). In that article, Kirkpatrick detailed how Yasser Arafat and his terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization were peddling an ideology “that integrates the Arab nationalist struggle against Israel with the struggle against ‘colonialism,’ ‘imperialism,’ and ‘racism,’ and in this fashion extends and exacerbates the conflict by involving countries in it that are remote from the Middle East.”
As Kirkpatrick explained in her article, these various causes were anchored in voting blocs at the United Nations, such as the Non-Aligned Movement, thus eliminating “the need for individual governments to make their own decisions on issues” and delivering automatic UN majorities “against some targeted country or cause — such as Israel.”
Such voting blocs still dominate the UN, wedded to a host of despotic fictions and outworn causes, but united to this day in their mob targeting of the U.S. and Israel. On their fringes hover various economically developed democracies — such as the major powers of Europe — eager to demonstrate their rarefied notions of virtue and independent thought by voting along with major blocs at the UN led in recent years by the likes of Iran, Sudan and Venezuela.
So, when President Trump on Dec. 6 announced that the U.S. was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and would be moving the U.S. embassy there, the UN mobilized en masse to slap this down. The first showdown came this past Monday at the 15-member Security Council, where Egypt introduced a draft resolution calling on all states to refrain from setting up diplomatic missions in Jerusalem. Fourteen Council members voted in favor, including permanent members China Russia, France, and the UK, along with rotating members such as Bolivia, Ukraine, Ethiopia and Senegal. Haley blocked them all by wielding the U.S. veto. That’s a big switch from the scene just a year ago, when President Obama’s ambassador, Samantha Power, abstained from a Security Council vote on a resolution savaging Israel, thus allowing it to pass.
Blocked in the Security Council, the UN gang then defaulted to the General Assembly, a mushier arena, where resolutions are nonbinding, but the U.S. has no veto power — just a single vote. For this stage of the showdown, the vehicle was an “emergency special session,” which can be convened by the General Assembly within 24 hours if the Security Council is deemed by various majorities to have failed to exercise its responsibility for maintaining “international peace and security.” This particular special session, the “Tenth emergency special sesssion,” dates back to 1997, when it was convened at the request of Qatar. Punctuated by adjournments, but never actually ended, in the name of “peace” this “emergency” session has been devoted for the past 20 years to attacking Israel.
And so, on Thursday morning, this General Assembly Tenth Emergency Special Session arrived at a debate over a resolution drafted by Yemen and Turkey that effectively denounced Trump’s decision on Jerusalem as “null and void” and demanded it be rescinded. (The draft resolution, on the “Status of Jerusalem,” written in classic, elliptical UN style, did not actually name the U.S., but clearly targeted America and Trump’s decision.)
Among the member states speaking in favor of the resolution was Estonia, which spoke not only for itself, but on behalf of such western democracies as — to name a few — the UK, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. On this resolution, targeting the U.S. and Israel, that left these democratic worthies standing arm-in-arm with the Palestinians, Syria, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and China — all of whom also spoke in favor of this resolution — as well as Russia and Sudan, which were among those voting for it.
Within the plush confines of the UN’s headquarters in New York (or UN offices in such places as Geneva, or Vienna, or Nairobi) that’s pretty standard operating procedure. It’s also part of a mindset that accepts as an entitlement the massive U.S. contributions that keep the ever-expanding UN afloat, while that same UN provides a framework for dignifying countries and voting blocs that make it their business to attack the United States.
One of the highlights — or low points — of Thursday’s debate was the speech by Venezuela’s envoy, Samuel Moncada Acosta, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a voting bloc that includes well over half the UN member states, from Algeria to Zimbabwe. Leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement is passed around among its members, a dubious honor extended since the turn of the millennium to Cuba, Egypt, Iran and now Venezuela. Bear in mind that Venezuela is an oil-rich country, reduced to violence and grotesque poverty — in which infants are now starving to death — under the “Bolivarian Revolution” launched by the late Hugo Chavez and further pursued under the brutal rule of the current president, Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela is hardly a beacon of prosperity, peace, or any policies that might tend in those directions. But at the UN General Assembly, its envoy spoke on behalf of scores of other member states, as well as for the thugs who rule Caracas, to “deplore” the actions of the U.S. in choosing where to locate its embassy in Israel.
North Korea, home to a totalitarian dynasty that crushes and starves its own people while testing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, in violation of a stack of UN Security Council resolutions, also stepped up to the podium to celebrate the commitments of the Non-Aligned Movement, proclaim its solidarity with the Palestinian people and demand that the U.S. obey the will of the UN. In similar spirit, the Assembly heard from Iran (world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism), Syria (where the government has used chemical weapons against its own people), Cuba … you get the idea.
This, in sum, is the august body known as the UN, where a parade of hypocrites, including a disturbing number of tyrants, terror-sponsors and butchers, spent Thursday morning rebuking the U.S., before they voted 128 to nine, with 35 abstaining (and 21 no-shows), to demand the U.S. put its embassy where they prefer — and then adjourned their endless emergency special session, till next time. Quite likely they went to avail themselves of the pleasant facilities at the lavishly refurbished UN headquarters, or the nearby watering holes of midtown Manhattan, for a good lunch. That’s how it works at the UN.
What’s changed this year, what deserves to be treated as big news — and what might ultimately help remind some of America’s allies that in dangerous times it would behoove them to stand with America against the likes of Venezuela, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, China and Russia — was the U.S. response. Haley stood up for America. Amid the UN babble, she spoke the truth.
Here’s an excerpt from Haley’s remarks to the assembled eminences:
The United States is by far the single largest contributor to the United Nations and its agencies. We do this, in part, in order to advance our values and interests…
But we’ll be honest with you. When we make generous contributions to the UN, we also have a legitimate expectation that our good will is recognized and respected. When a nation is singled out for attack in this organization, that nation is disrespected. What’s more, that nation is asked to pay for the “privilege” of being disrespected.
In the case of the United States, we are asked to pay more than anyone else for that dubious privilege.
Those words alone were worthy of headlines. Here was the news: “U.S. Ambassador Rebukes UN for Disrespecting U.S.”
And Haley was far from done. She added a zinger that cut to the core of the worst moral rot at the UN:
Unlike in some UN member countries, the United States government is answerable to its people.
And she spelled out why, even in the diplomatically-insulated chambers of the UN, that should matter quite a lot:
As such, we have an obligation to acknowledge when our political and financial capital is being poorly spent.
We have an obligation to demand more for our investment. And if our investment fails, we have an obligation to spend our resources in more productive ways. Those are thoughts that come to mind when we consider the resolution before us today.
There was plenty more to Haley’s remarks, which are worth reading in full, including her observation that the UN’s “disproportionate focus on Israel” is “a wrong that undermines the credibility of this institution” and her summary that the president’s decision on Jerusalem “reflects the will of the American people and our right as a nation to choose the location of our embassy.”
In the General Assembly vote, the U.S. was left to console itself with the votes of Micronesia, Palau, Naru, the Marshall Islands, Togo, Guatemala, Honduras, and, of course, the lone democracy in the Middle East — Israel. Yes, the UN General Assembly has added yet another resolution to its anti-American, anti-Israel hoard. But what’s changed is that the U.S., in speaking the truth to this crowd, and standing up for its own sovereign interests and prerogatives, is now laying the groundwork for further bypassing the demands and Orwellian inversions of the morally corrupt grand conclave that is the UN. I’d call that a good day for America.