In one of her last acts as US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice had Nelson Mandela’s name removed from America’s terrorist watch list. Many Americans were shocked to learn that their favourite former political prisoner had ever been deemed a terrorist. That is because they had forgotten, or were too young to know, that the US under Ronald Reagan – like Britain under Margaret Thatcher – had backed the apartheid regime in South Africa as a Cold War ally.
Isolating South Africa through sanctions and boycotts was certainly not the choice of Mrs Thatcher or Mr Reagan, but their governments were eventually forced to take action by the outrage of their own electorates at the suffering apartheid inflicted. The international anti-apartheid movement began at the grassroots among religious, community and labour groups, but it grew sufficiently powerful to force governments to distance themselves from a regime that they had viewed sympathetically. And that is a lesson that terrifies Israel’s leaders.