Ambassador Danny Danon at the JRC
I had the honor to meet briefly Danny Danon at the Jewish Republican Coalition yesterday. Danon is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, a post to which he applies his considerable energy and strength of will. Those qualities, and a good sense of humor, were on full display last night at the event. He gave a lengthy speech, thanking the audience for their support of the state of Israel, as well lambasting Obama for his abandonment of Israel, especially at the UN.
All that was excellent. But he also devoted considerable time informing us about the progress Israel is making at the UN. From the way he was telling it, Israel is transitioning from being a pariah-nation on the level of Apartheid South Africa to being a respected nation, gaining friends and admirers at every turn.
This last part is what I would like to focus on. I find this to be all the more urgent as I am seeing this type of thing all around me. People are sighing with relief, and applauding with delight, that Israel is getting friends, attaining respect, becoming normalized. Jewish Americans love Nicky Hailey, and how she is laying down the law at the UN with her full-throated defense of Israel. But all that glitters is not gold, and the UN has more fake glitter than most.
The chief issue, in this, and in many other things, is perception. That is, how do we, and the Ruskies, and the Arabs, and tinpot-dictators, and the civilized nations perceive the United Nations. The reason for this is that the UN is part magician, part priest, and part warrior.
The UN is part magician in the Harry Houdini sense of the word. Harry Houdini, unlike the fictional Harry Potter, was not actually doing any magic. The success of a magician’s act is dependent on making the audience believe that magic is being performed. If the audience believes, then the show will be compelling, wondrous, mindboggling. The moment the audience decides that what they are watching is silly, nonsensical, and fake, the game is up, and the magicians loses his power to awe.
Mutatis mutandis the United Nations. As long as countries the world over believe in it, the UN thrives. The UN feeds on that belief, powered to ever greater heights by global worship and trust. The fortune of the UN ebbs and flows in relation to this.
But the UN is part priest. Specifically, part pope. Everyone knows that Stalin said mockingly about the pope, “How many divisions does he have?” Well, how many divisions of soldiers does the pope have? Today Pope Francis has a few men with halberds and fancy dance. But Pope Urban II had enough divisions at his beck and call that he was able to inspire and direct them to launch a crusade to conquer the Holy Land from the Muslims. To answer Stalin’s question, “The pope has many divisions of soldiers as would march into battle at his word.”
The part of the UN that is the priest leads as many troops as would follow. And that is how the third part of the UN, that of the warrior, comes into play. The UN’s martial skill, its ability to raise armies and win battles, is contingent on its other aspects: that of the magician and that of the priest.
The US and Israel, and any country that loves Israel, must endeavor not give the magician and priest what they want—which is the strength and power of the warrior. On the contrary, we must never take the UN seriously, because the UN because a serious force the moment it is reckoned to be a serious force.
An empowered UN is a perennial menace, and existential threat, to the state of Israel. If there is one lesson the UN has taught us in the past seven decades is that it always sinks to the level of its worst elements. And, in this case, its worst element are, and always will be, anti-Israel.
I beseech Ambassador Danon, who I have no doubt does not take the United Nations seriously, to not pretend to take the United Nations seriously. Rather, he would be well served to use his acerbic wit and humor to destabilize and undermine the United Nations. It will be good for Israel.