How Nikki Haley’s Background and Beliefs Helped Foster Her Zionist Spirit
In the midst of the continuous storm of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel resolutions that have been produced by the United Nations over the last few decades, there is a light that is shining more brightly now than ever before. Nimrata “Nikki” Haley, the 29th US Ambassador to the UN, is the strong voice advocating for Israel and demanding the bias and hatred towards Israel from other countries must stop immediately. Born to Sikh Indian parents in South Carolina, Haley credits them with first instilling in her a sense of pride and gratitude about living in America. “Well, I am the daughter of Indian parents who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country,” said Haley in an interview at the 2017 AIPAC Convention.
After graduating Clemson University with a BA in Accounting, Haley went to work for her mother’s clothing company, Exotica International. After being involved in numerous executive boards in her community and town, Haley was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in January of 2005. She continued this role until January 2011, where she was elected the first female governor of South Carolina. In November of 2016, she was appointed by president-elect Donald Trump to be the 29th United States Ambassador to the UN; she was confirmed in January 2017.
During her career in politics, Haley’s strong Zionistic and pro-Israel stance have been a major focus of hers. While Haley was governor of South Carolina, she signed into law a bill to stop efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This legislation was the first of its kind on a statewide level. Haley also stated during the announcement of that bill, that “nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel”. As Ambassador, Haley has been extremely outspoken about the UN’s blatant bias against Israel and has been extremely vocal in her personal support and her representing the United States supporting Israel. This is a welcome change for many from the stance of former US Ambassador, Samantha Power, and the US’ decision to abstain from the voting of Resolution 2334.
Samantha Power, who was the 28th US Ambassador under the Obama administration, famously abstained from voting on Resolution 2334 in December 2016, which declared that the Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was illegal and violated international law. Power told the 15-member U.N. Security Council, “Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 undermines Israel’s security, harms the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome, and erodes prospects for peace and stability in the region.” It came as a surprise to many that the US would seemingly go against an ally by refusing to vote against the resolution, especially coming from the woman who said “I will stand up for Israel and work tirelessly to defend it” in her Senate confirmation hearing; the resolution passed with 14 votes for and one abstention, the US. Haley later called the decision to abstain “one of the lowest points in our country….when [Power] abstained, the entire Security Council, and the entire audience, got up and applauded, and Israel was sitting there….watching that. Think about what we just did to a friend. You don’t ever applaud in the Security Council. That never happens. It happened that day.”
Haley has unequivocally and steadfastly supported Israel as the voice of the United States to the UN; she has called the UN out on their bias towards Israel dozens of times, especially when the UN named Israel the country with the most human rights violations in March 2017, beating out Iran, Syria, Libya and North Korea. “You know, basically what it comes down to is I’m not there to play,” said Haley during the 2017 AIPAC Conference. “And what I wanted to make sure of was that the United States started leading again. And leading isn’t saying and doing things when it’s comfortable. Leading is saying and doing things when it’s not comfortable.”
When pressed about how she came to have such a strong stance on Israel and how she became so outspoken about defending Israel, Haley said, “[T]he truth is, I have seen so many similarities between the Israeli culture and the Indian culture. We’re very close-knit. We love our families. We have a strong work ethic. We believe in professionalism and philanthropy and giving back. It’s very true. So that’s all the good things.” India and Israel have shared many similarities in values and members of each country frequently visit the other. Around 40,000 Israelis, many of whom have just finished their required military service visit India annually and around 34,000 Indians visit Israel annually. According to a 2009 international study commissioned by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the greatest level of sympathy towards Israel from a member of the international community can be found in India, with 58% of Indian respondents showing sympathy towards Israel. In 2015, opinion polls showed 70% of Indians had favorable views of Israel.
Others wonder if perhaps Haley’s conversion to Christianity helped further foster her Zionist feelings. When Haley wed her husband, Michael Haley, who was a Christian, they did both a Sikh and Christian ceremony. Haley said about her choice to convert to Christianity, “We chose Christianity because of the way we wanted to live our life and raise our children — it had nothing to do with me thinking there was anything wrong with the way I was raised, and everything to do with the fact that I am moving forward in my life and had to find a path I felt was right for me.” Many Christians do believe in Israel’s right to exist; these Christians are called “Christian Zionists.” Some Christian Zionists believe that the gathering of the Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus. Christian Zionists interpret the prophetic texts as describing inevitable future events, and these events primarily involve Israel, meaning the descendants of Jacob, which are the Jewish people. These prophecies are seen as requiring the presence of Jewish people in the Holy Land; this requirement is sometimes interpreted as being fulfilled by the contemporary state of Israel.
Haley has not made a public comment on whether her Christian views have helped cultivate her support for Israel even more, but whatever Haley’s reasoning, there is no doubt Israel and the American Jews are thankful for Haley’s voice and for tossing her hat into the UN’s ring. “For anyone that says you can’t get anything done at the U.N.,” Haley says, “they need to know there’s a new sheriff in town.”