Peres gets beefed-up protection in Brazil

Security tightens around

peres in brazil 248.88 (photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)
peres in brazil 248.88
(photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)
Security has tightened considerably around President Shimon Peres in Sao Paulo following an anti-Peres rally on Thursday by 40 to 60 Palestinians and Lebanese, some of whom held up banners with swastikas and others images of Palestinian children allegedly killed or maimed by Israelis. One man even brought a large shoe to throw at Peres, but never had the opportunity to do so. The demonstration took place outside the Federation of Industries, where the president was due to give a speech to a Brazilian-Israeli business forum. Police dispersed the demonstrators prior to his arrival. Peres was meant to continue from there to Hebraica, the Jewish Federation of Sao Paulo's sports, culture and social center, where close to 2,000 people were waiting for him. However his bodyguards learned that some 400 people had been admitted without a security check and refused to allow the event to continue unless everyone was evacuated and subjected to a security search. As a result the meeting between Peres and the Jewish community started two-and-a-half hours behind schedule. Peres, who had flown in from Brasilia earlier in the day and had conducted several meetings, looked exhausted, and when his aides asked him to forgo a dinner at the home of prominent banker Joseph Safra, he was adamant about attending, saying that people had been looking forward to it and he had no intention of disappointing them. Brazil's tropical climate is very humid, and air conditioning is low or nonexistent. There were several hundred people in the Federation of Industries hall, and many more at Hebraica. Several of the Israeli reporters traveling with Peres were sure that he was on the verge of collapse. He had been drained of color and his mouth was slack. His appearance was reminiscent of the way he looked a few weeks back when he fainted at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, where it was also unbearably hot. But the 86-year-old held his ground and recovered without fainting. Peres thrives on the adulation of the crowd. There was plenty of adulation at both events, and gradually his complexion improved. The slackness around his mouth disappeared, and he looked well as he took in the warmth of the crowd. At Hebraica, Claudio Lottenberg, the president of the Jewish community of Sao Paulo, told him that he was certain of Brazil's ability to help in the peace process and assured him of the Jewish community's unwavering commitment to Israel. Peres replied: "If Jews and Arabs can live in harmony in Brazil, they can do so in the Middle East." Peres, who was familiar to the community from a visit to Brazil in 1987, said that there were many people in Israel who had sprouted from this community. Commending its institutions, especially its Jewish day schools and its Zionist youth organizations, Peres earned a roar of approval when he said: "Jews have answers for everything except for who is a Jew. The answer used to be anyone who has Jewish parents, especially a Jewish mother, said Peres. "Today, it's a person who makes sure that his children will remain Jewish. Your Jewish schools are fantastic and will ensure the students there will remain Jewish." By the time that he arrived at Safra's mansion, Peres was fully recovered and in fine fettle. He made a speech, answered questions and was ready to stay on when other members of his party showed signs of fatigue. He eventually returned to his hotel shortly before 1 a.m and. was up before dawn to fly to Rio de Janeiro. Sao Paulo's Jewish community will today, Sunday, hold a demonstration against the upcoming visit to Brazil by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Jewish demonstrators will be joined by gays and other sectors of society that have been denigrated by Ahmadinejad. On Friday, a huge crowd of Rio de Janeiro Jews gathered at the Copacabana hotel to welcome Peres and to express solidarity against the visit of Ahmadinejad. Peres said that as someone who spews death and hatred, Ahmadinejad has no future, and the world is gradually beginning to spurn him. In talking about Jewish unity and solidarity, the president noted how the Jewish world has united around abducted IDF tank gunner Gilad Schalit. "The fate of a single Israeli soldier has become the fate of all of us," he said. Peres also remarked on the contribution of Brazilian Jewry to Israel, singling out the mostly Brazilian Kibbutz Bror Hayil, near Sderot. He invited his audience to join those Brazilians who had made their homes in Israel and noted that he had come to  Brazil from Israel in an El Al plane. "The distance from Brazil to Israel is the same as from Israel to Brazil," he declared. Sitting in the audience were some of the Brazilians who as new immigrants will be joining Peres when he returns to Israel on Wednesday.