On Thursday, UN ambassador Nikki Haley criticized President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority for allegedly invoking conspiracy theories during a recent speech in which he blasted the Trump administration for its handing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including its provocative move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Referring to a portion of the speech in which Abbas gave a lengthy lecture about the origins of Zionism, Haley said, “A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and the will to seek peace.”
A Trump administration official criticizing other world leaders for invoking conspiracy theories is a bold move. During the Obama years, Trump rose to national political prominence thanks to his leading role in pushing a conspiracy theory about America’s first black president being a secret Muslim from Africa. Since taking office, Trump has embraced wild, baseless claims about how the “deep state” is trying to undermine him and about how millions of illegal voters cost him the popular vote. He has repeatedly retweeted Twitter accounts that traffic in conspiracy theories.
In fact, while Haley is at the UN denouncing conspiracy theories, other administration officials — with help from some Republican members of Congress — have been pushing a conspiracy theory about a cabal of FBI agents who purportedly plotted with Obama administration officials in an unsuccessful effort to prevent Trump from winning the election. And during a speech to mayors on Wednesday, Trump suggested that a conspiracy of some sort might explain why Obama put restrictions on selling military-grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies.
“The previous administrations — but in particular, the previous administration — they didn’t like to do that, and someday they’ll explain why,” Trump said, the implication being that secret motives were at work. (The restrictions were put in place in response to the militarized tactics used by police against protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, who were demonstrating after a police officer there fatally shot Michael Brown in August 2014.)
During another part of her speech on Thursday, Haley — alluding to then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s role leading role in making the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty happen — asked, “Where is the Palestinian Anwar Sadat?” That comment was also a bit uncomfortable, given that Sadat was assassinated two years after the peace accord was struck.