Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed cohorts of Israel loyalists in the United States by video link last week at the annual conference of AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee.
They should, he said, follow his government’s example and defend Israel on the “moral battlefield” against the growing threat of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. In Mr Netanyahu’s simple-minded language, support for Palestinian rights, and opposition to the settlements, is equivalent to “delegitimisation” of Israel.
The current obsession with BDS reflects a changing political environment for Israel.
According to an investigation by the Haaretz newspaper last month, Israeli agents subverted the human rights community in the 1970s and 1980s. Their job was to launder Israel’s image abroad. Yoram Dinstein, a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, led the local chapter of Amnesty International, the world’s most influential rights organisation of the time, running it effectively as a wing of Israel’s foreign ministry.
Mr. Dinstein’s interference allowed Israel to falsely characterise the occupation as benevolent while presenting the Palestinians’ liberation struggle as terrorism. The reality of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians rarely reached outsiders.
Israel’s task is harder five decades on. The human rights community is more independent, while social media and mobile phone cameras have allowed…