Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley enthralled a sold-out audience of 1,200 at Westmount’s Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue with an exploration of her principled defence of human rights and Israel in particular at the UN. She spoke with the spirits of former UN Ambassadors Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeanne Kirkpatrick but with her own particular brand of eloquence and passion.
Haley, also the former Governor of South Carolina, was the keynote speaker at the Jewish Community Council of Montreal/Federation CJA fundraising event, which benefited Federation CJA’s Generations Fund, the Jewish Community Council of Montreal and Migdal Ohr. Haley, who is writing a book for release this fall, was presented with the 2019 King David Award by the JCC and Federation. She was introduced by Federation CJA president David Amiel; Rabbi Saul Emanuel, Executive Director of JCC Montreal and 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Zahava Ungar, who has 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Haley, mostly in conversation with Hillel Neuer of UN Watch who flew in from Geneva for the event, said the way in which she fights for principle is a result of her upbringing.
“My mom taught me to tell the truth. We also have to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.... You can do it, too. If you see something, say something. If there’s someone suffering, do something about it.”
Other issues explored during the event.
• On Neuer’s work defending Israel at UN Watch. “I’m cheering for you. You’re fighting the good fight.”
• Her iconic moment at the UN vetoing a condemnation of the Trump administration’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “That was one of my proudest moments. I felt like I was fighting for the truth and for what was right. And I was mad. Every country has the sovereign right to put their embassy wherever they choose. The U.S. always chooses to have its embassy in the capitol. Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. The rest of the world can’t hide what we know as fact. The President had great courage to do it.”
• The attitude at the UN towards Israel: “What I saw at the Security Council reminded me of what it felt like to be bullied when I was a kid. I have no patience for bullies. For me, it was disgusting....Over time, it started to stop, but I think we have a long way to go.”
• Why UN members overwhelmingly vote against Israel: “The Arab countries have a lot of oil and a lot of money, and they started picking up all these other countries to vote with them. If you actually go into the quiet corners of the UN, most countries don’t hate Israel, most envy Israel.”
• On the UN General Assembly: “As awful as the UN has been to Israel, don’t give up because we moved mountains over the last two years, and I’m not going anywhere,” she said to loud applause.
• On the Obama administration abstention of a UN resolution declaring the Old City of Jerusalem “occupied Palestinian territory.” “It was terrible... the U.S. led that resolution. Other countries actually didn’t want to do it. It was the U.S.’s saddest hour. I vowed ‘that would never happen again under my watch.’... If you don’t have the backs of your friends, why would anybody trust you?”
• On Israel itself. “It has earned the right to stand on its own and call people out, because it’s a good, strong country that I truly look at as a beacon of light in a neighbourhood that has a lot of problems.”