(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Brazil relationship – too important to lose • By SHIMON SAMUELS and ARIEL GELBLUNG The Brazil of 1947, whose UN ambassador Osvaldo Aranha championed the Jewish state, is no more.
The penal code – unique in Latin America – that prohibited anti-Semitic literature and broadcasts, banning also the use of the swastika, is now generally ignored.
The close Brazilian-Israeli military cooperation is under BDS attack. This is a major campaign of the World Social Forum (WSF), headquartered in Porto Alegre.
The WSF, regularly attended by the Wiesenthal Center, has become the main NGO vector of the 2001 Durban UN World Conference Against Racism anti-Jewish hate-fest.
The Porto Alegre Forum, under the banner “Free Palestine,” coordinates international boycott movements, the Gaza flotillas, supports anti-Zionist Jews, undermines Christian friends of Israel and designs other projects to most harm the Jewish state and its supporters.
Brazilian-Israeli relations further deteriorated under the presidency of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who presented the Palestinians with the 1,600 m. plot in the government-diplomatic quarter of the capital, Brasilia, dedicated on a state visit by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The embassy opened last week under a dome in the form of the Aksa mosque.
This event led the Time-style journal Veja to cite unnamed security sources who fear the huge complex could become a Hamas-controlled center, radicalizing under diplomatic immunity among – according to Foz de Iguacu mosque – the over a million-strong Muslim community and menacing the some 150,000 Jews of Brazil.
Beyond Brazil, there are more positive significant political changes across the region: • The once Chavez-dominated, Iranian-influenced ALBA bloc (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba) is floundering and the Venezuelan Congress has rejected the Chavez legacy.
• The new Macri administration in Argentina has, effectively, voided the Memorandum of its Kirchner predecessor with Iran, which would have canceled Interpol arrest warrants and Tehran’s complicity in the 1994 AMIA Jewish Center bombing, which left 85 dead and over 300 maimed.
• There is renewed concern about Hezbollah and other jihadi sleepers in Argentina and especially in the Triple Frontier Region it shares with Brazil and Paraguay, as in six other Latin countries identified by the late AMIA prosecutor, Alberto Nisman.
This concern was reflected at the Organization of American States (OAS), following the Wiesenthal Center’s report of Syrian “refugees” traveling on stolen Greek passports in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Brazil is at a crossroads. President Dilma Roussef is no Chavez, nor a Macri.
Her administration is charged with widespread corruption.
Its recent “emerging state” boom economy is turning into mega-inflation bust, with an exponential rise in criminal violence and homicide.
Jews can, once again, be the collateral scapegoat, exacerbated in the context of the diplomatic crisis around Israel’s ambassador- designate, Argentine-born Dani Dayan. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is having a field day attacking his credentials as a former chairman of the Judea and Samaria Council.
The golden age of relations may not return, but Israel has many influential friends in Brazil who must be galvanized to unlock this logjam.
Refusal of an ambassadorial appointee is a serious embarrassment for any country. For the State of Israel it is damaging, especially when this demarche is manipulated by a discriminatory, and even anti-Semitic lobby such as BDS. Nevertheless, as long as there is no voice of Israel in Brasilia, BDS already has its victory.
Brazil – the giant of Latin America – is too important a relationship to lose.
Shimon Samuels and Ariel Gelblung are, respectively, director for international relations and Latin American representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.