Brazilian universities and the Jewish question

Recently, a calling made by the dean (of post-graduation programs) of the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria (UFSM), from the state of Rio Grande do Sul (south Brazil), became news in Brazil and in Israel. I felt ashamed when I read about it, I felt even more ashamed when I read about on the Israeli newspapers. 


The dean, José Fernando Schlosser, made a calling requesting information about the presence of Israeli students and teachers on the university. The information was originally requested on august, 2014. Such request was made possible because of the Law of Access of Information and because there are many stupid people with M.D and PhD.


It had the intention to meet a request made by the Comitê Santa-Mariense de Solidariedade ao Povo Palestino (in english, Santa-Mariense Committee of Solidarity Toward the Palestinian People), the Diretório Central de Estudantes da UFSM (in English, the Central Directory of Students (from the University) and Seção Sindical Docente da UFSM (in English, the Department of the Union of Teachers). When I read this shocking stupidity for the first time, I thought "why all of those folks decided to made such discriminatory request? Probably because of some ideological gibberish”, and I wasn’t wrong, they all have one thing in common, they hold ideologically left-wing radical ideas.


According to Reinaldo Azevedo, one of my favorite journalists, “the moral illiteracy is the worst thing about this case”. 


Also, sometimes Brazilian authorities can be quite poker face, for instance, the provost of the university, Paulo Afonso Burmann, affirmed that the episode has caused embarrassment to the university, but also that the university respects diversity and is a secular institution. Interesting way to respect diversity, don’t you think?


This discriminatory request was criticize by many people in Brazil, the Brazilian Society for Scientific Progress stated “(…) We live, today, in democratic state of right, in a democracy acquired through many fights, in which Brazilian from all origins fought, including scientists, teachers and students, they fought and they still do for a tolerant and and more inclusive country. We also would like to remind you of the partnership between Don Paulo Evaristo Arns (at the time roman catholic arcbishop of São Paulo) and Rabbi Henry Isaac Sobel during the democratization process (…) in order to fight for the restrain of the violence of the militar regime. That is the country we wish and not the one expressed by your university. (…) We firmly oppose to any type of discrimination and we continue to struggle for a country where we are equal in all the senses (…).” The comment in italic is mine.


MEC, the Brazilian Ministry of Education, affirmed that “(…) the law of information access can’t be used to violate the fundamental rights of ours citizens. (…) The purpose of every republic is to promote the well being of everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, their gender, their age, their origin or anything else (according to the third article of the Brazilian constitution). Any kind of request done based on the law of information access that leads to discrimination of any kind must be disregard e, therefore, not answered (…)” 


The Brazilian federal policy and the public ministry are going to investigate the case.


When I first read about it, It shocked me. I thought “what if something like that happened in my university?”. It felt like I could see the images of persecutions and acts of discrimination that Jews suffered through the last century. The request was vicious, the acceptance of the request by the important members of the board of university, was a pure demonstration of mediocrity. This kind of vicious and mediocrity acts pave the street into hell. 


The kind of event reminds me that I’m Jewish, unlike my non-Jewish counterparts this event reminded my of my own identity and also of the importance of democracy, of republican institutions and the democratic state of right. The prejudice, the stupidity and the fascism will always exist, that is why we need to fight for democracy, for individual rights and for freedom, because those things can help minorities such as I’m to fight back. Also, I was reminded once more of why we need a Jewish state, a democratic and Jewish state.