While Washington’s politicians never tire in their constant search for ‘foreign meddling’, the Twitter crowd has pointed out that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted to trying to influence US politics.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu’s office quoted the PM as saying that “in recent years, we have promoted laws in most US states, which determine that strong action is to be taken against whoever tries to boycott Israel.” This came shortly after the UN Human Rights Council released a database of more than 100 companies “involved in certain activities relating to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” infuriating Israeli officials.
It was also not for nothing that the American administration has taken this step together with us. In recent years, we have promoted laws in most US states, which determine that strong action is to be taken against whoever tries to boycott Israel.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) February 12, 2020
Netanyahu did not clarify what kind of ‘promotion’ he was referring to. However, in the past he has praised American politicians for taking steps against the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights, which he called “anti-Semitic” and a threat to Israel.
A total of 28 US states adopted various laws penalizing companies and individuals for supporting BDS and engaging in boycotts of Tel Aviv over the way it treats the Palestinians. On top of that, last year the US House of Representatives passed a resolution repudiating the campaign.
Eager to bash BDS, the Israeli PM may not have been too careful about his choice of words. His comments raised eyebrows on social media and were quickly labelled as blatant meddling in US domestic affairs – something Washington usually does not tolerate when it comes from other nations.
You have no right to interfere in our government.
— miri wood (@miriwood) February 12, 2020
“Imagine ANY other country doing this. Bragging about their influence over our government to get laws passed that limit American freedoms,” one person wrote. Another wondered how Washington would have reacted “if China tweeted that they were influencing legislation in most US states.”
Some found it especially ironic in the light of never-ending ‘Russian meddling’ scandals in the US. “Isn’t this election interference? Like #Russiagate?” a Twitter user asked.
Commenters also suggested that Netanyahu may have inadvertently vindicated US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who was criticized for saying that Israel uses lobbying groups to promote its agenda in the US.
So, Ilhan Omar was correct? And the people who sent her death threats and still say she’s a terrorist are wrong? Good to know, Bibi.
— (((LaborWaver))) (@laborwaver) February 12, 2020
“I don’t know how anyone can reasonably claim that politicians pointing out ‘Israel meddles in American affairs’ is untrue, let alone anti-Semitic,”wrote Isi Kirchner-Breen, media director for the Minnesota-based Jewish Community Action group.
Imagine if Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib accused Israel of having the power or ability to change the laws in the US, to suppress Americans’ right to free speech. People would lose their minds.
Yet here is Israel’s prime minister openly admitting, via tweet, to having done that. https://t.co/7Ay7yAfCBm
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) February 12, 2020
Launched by Palestinian NGOs and activists in 2005, the BDS movement states its goal as using non-violent economic and political pressure to compel Israel into ending the “occupation and colonization” of Palestinian lands. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that US anti-BDS laws are illegal because the right to boycott is protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
Critics have been calling the movement anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli. Officials in Tel Aviv, meanwhile, have been alleging that the NGOs promoting BDS have ties to terrorist groups.