Analysis

The Saddest Part of Trump’s UN Speech Was the Laughter

Israeli right-wingers cheered the president’s address despite the fact that it portends a dangerous erosion of America’s global leadership on which their country depends

U.S. President Donald Trump at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., September 25, 2018
\ CARLO ALLEGRI/ REUTERS

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Kvell, according to Yiddish grandmaster Leo Rosten, means, “to beam with immense pleasure and pride.” The word was originally used in the context of parents and grandparents kvelling over their offspring, but has since expanded its reach to mark “immense pleasure and pride” in general. So it can be said that on the morning after Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, right-wing Israel was kvelling like crazy.

Trump belted it out of the park, pleased Israeli politicians applauded. He eviscerated Iran, put the Palestinians in their place and tore the mask off the hypocritical international community and their phony organizations, which dedicate themselves to bashing Israel. He stood up for the kind of good old nationalism and patriotism that today’s Israel cherishes, they acclaimed. He spoke truth to power in the world’s foremost den of lies and made us all proud, they kvelled.

Trump forced to pause amid laughter at the 2018 UN General Assembly address

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The Trump-trumpeters were even pleased with the fact that Trump singled out Israel for praise, even though he did so by lumping it together with hyperventilating nationalist India, Holocaust-distorting ethnocentric Poland and arm-amputating theocratic Saudi Arabia. In the brave new bizarro world sculpted by Trump and embraced by Benjamin Netanyahu, Western liberal democracies such as Canada, Germany and France are out and self-aggrandizing, ethno-baiting Eastern autocracies such as Hungary, Poland and even Russia, when it isn’t supplying S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, are in.

The local Donald Trump fan club conveniently ignores the fact that the legal basis for the very existence of Israel, established in the November 29, 1947 UN Partition Resolution, stems from the international structure that Trump seems bent on dismantling.  The Trumpkins forget that the venues for international collaboration, which American conservatives and Israeli right-wingers love to loath, were created as a response the horrors of World War II, when the same kind of super-patriotic uber-nationalism that Trump is espousing brought the world to the brink of ruin and the Jewish people to the edge of extinction.  And that if the America First ideology that Trump championed at the UN would have prevailed in 1940, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis could very well have completed their quest for the Final Solution to the Jewish problem, as they put it.

But the Israeli right’s myopia turns into willful blindness when it comes to the pivotal importance of America’s place in the world to the safety and wellbeing of their country. The unrivalled leadership of the United States, in the free world and beyond, is Israel’s security blanket. Washington’s diplomatic influence has entrenched Israel’s international legitimacy and kept its enemies at bay. America’s stature as a beacon of democracy and fair play, even when it was just a pose, paved the way for Israel to join the liberal democratic family of nations and, as such, to take the moral high ground in its battle against the zealots, despots and fundamentalists that want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

Which is why the scariest and also the saddest part of Trump’s speech was the spontaneous laughter he drew from the General Assembly when he unilaterally extolled his own “extraordinary achievements.” Sure, the merry mirth provided a healthy dose of schadenfreude for Trump-haters in America and throughout the world. It can certainly be viewed as a well-deserved comeuppance for a President who delights in trashing allies and cuddling up to dictators.   And it definitely provides Democrats with another useful slogan – “The whole world is laughing” – as they prepare for what could be portrayed as the most important elections ever held, coming up in just 40 days, on November 6, 2018.

Trump’s spinners tried to belittle the global glee or to portray it as proof of the justness of Trump’s cause. They turned a blind eye to its true portent as a symbolic sign of the erosion of America’s global preeminence and diminished moral authority.  They willfully ignored the potential dangers, for world stability and Israel’s security, of a U.S. administration that has lost its ability to win friends, influence countries and build coalitions that advance American values and protect Israel’s international standing in the process.

Instead, Israel is placing its trust more than ever before on the one and only President of the United States and his Republican lackeys. It is willfully abandoning its long held ambition to be accepted by one and all. It is relying on ever-increasing support from a constantly narrowing part of the international community, pursuing the same kind of self-defeating strategy that has recently guided its approach to domestic support inside the United States: Banking on the unqualified support of the recently formed, supergroup “Sheldon Adelson and the Evangelicals”, Israel is turning its back on traditional, though sometimes critical bases such as Democrats, American Jews and liberals in general.

Trump’s Israel cheerleaders also seem oblivious to the fact that a large chunk of the scorn with which Trump was received at UN headquarters in New York stems from his one-sided support for Israel and his disturbing disdain for Palestinians. Trump’s unilateral decisions to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, recognize Jerusalem and move the U.S. Embassy there, along with the cruel and unusual punishment he regularly metes out to Palestiniansaccording to Jared Kushner, because they dissed him – deserve much of the debit for derision with which Trump was received in the General Assembly. And there may soon a come a time when Trump, whose ego knows no bounds, may come to realize this as well.

The ridiculing of a U.S. president in the world’s foremost forum marks a dangerous turn in world affairs. It undermines America’s stature as leader of the free world and injects anarchy in it stead. It portends a time of crisis when Israel will be in desperate need of U.S. diplomatic support, which will no longer be effective. It creates an environment in which countries will grow ever bolder in bucking Washington and going it alone, on Israel as well as many other issues.

One cannot claim to love or admire the United States without realizing the inherent dangers of a U.S. president who holds no moral authority, is laughed out of the court of world public opinion and is cheered by his sycophants alone. In the long run, such a world threatens Israel’s very existence. When all is said and done, all that will remain of Trump’s speech, like the smile of Alice’s Cheshire cat, is the laughter. And that, as he himself would put it, is simply “Sad!”