Why use the word “delegitimise”?

In February 2010, an Israeli think tank called the Reut Institute reported to the Israeli cabinet that Israel was facing a “global campaign of delegitimization”, wringing its hands at the extremely obvious fact that:

Israel has been successfully branded by its adversaries as a violent country that violates international law and human rights.

Reut’s description of a “Global Delegitimization Network” was bizarrely broad, necessarily so as it essentially included all manner of pro-Palestinian activists:

The nodes of the Delegitimization Network are countries, organizations, and individuals from a range of regions and of very diverse backgrounds. They are, inter alia, old and young; intellectuals and students; Muslims, Christians, and Jews; and mostly from Europe, but also from other continents; Examples of major delegitimization hubs may include, to varying degrees, London, Madrid, Paris, the San Francisco Bay Area, Toronto, and Brussels;

Yet, in all of this discussion, there was no sense that Israel should change any of its behavior. Rather, Reut asserted that:

while public relations (Hasbara) are critically important, they cannot and will not neutralize the delegitimisers

and made the Orwellian recommendation that:

Israel should sabotage network catalysts and drive a wedge between its component parts, primarily between soft critics of Israeli policy and delegitimizers of its existence.”

“Network catalysts” were defined by Reut as activists and activist organizations. Israel should “sabotage” these individuals and organizations, Reut recommended, by deploying spies against pro-Palestinian activists and activist organizations.

Faced with a potentially existential threat, Israel must treat it as such by focusing its intelligence agencies on this challenge… Focusing on the hubs of delegitimization – such as London, Paris, Toronto, Madrid, and the Bay Area -and on undermining its catalysts.

Israel needs to understand that the primary force delegitimising Israel on the face of the earth is… Israel.

Until Israel’s government and citizens take responsibility for their brutal, decades-long military occupation of Palestinian land, and their perpetuation of the most persistent refugee tragedy of the last century, no amount of public relations can change the basic facts that unite people of conscience around the world in opposition to Israeli policies towards the Palestinian people.