Brazil’s barbarians at Israel’s gate: South American Israel lobby tries to shut down World Social Forum on Palestine

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
on 17 Comments

This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

I was supposed to travel to Brazil later this month to speak at the World Social Forum Free Palestine conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The conference organizers invitation was late. Then there were further delays in communication and funding. The Visa process takes weeks. I won’t meet the deadline.

As usual, conferences like this are organized by volunteers, there isn’t much money and the process is endlessly complicated by internal arguments – and, no surprise, outside pressure. In the meantime, there seems to be issues about the place of a religious discussion in such a conference.

Though the details are fuzzy, I assume I was slated to speak with Muslims and Christians on theological aspects of the Israel/Palestine reality. It seems that some of the forum organizers have problems with such a dialogue. Not sure if a religious dialogue will go on, even if the larger meeting goes forth.

Secular folks think they’re more political than religious folks. They don’t always buy in to theological discussions. I find this quite interesting and quite late in the game for secular Leftists to point out the vagaries of religious history. Today’s religious folks have already called out that history.

In the United States, the most consistent and institutionally affiliated movers and shakers on the critique of Israeli policies toward Palestinians are in the churches. Considering the importance of religion in Brazil, the impact of liberation theology is important – with political implications.

Whatever the internal squabbling, the outside pressure is worse. It’s being brought to bear on the conference itself. I received this update from the organizers yesterday:

Zionists are in contact with the mayor of Porto Alegre (PoA) and the governor of Rio Grande do Sul (PoA is the capital of Rio Grande do Sul state) against the World Social Forum Free Palestine. In part they succeed, because now the WSF have lost the Usina do Gasômetro, the place where it would be held.

Brazilian Organizing Committee is trying to maintain Gasômetro, but, as we don’t know what will happen, we are trying to ensure other places in Porto Alegre for the conferences, activities, lectures and a local for the media work (the traditional one and the independent one, as well as the News Agency Free Palestine, which I coordinate and whose journalists will keep informed the public and the media about what is going on at the WSFFP in real time).

The Zionists from Federação Israelita do Rio Grande do Sul (Israeli Federation) said to the governor, Tarso Genro, that they fear attacks from Palestinian “radicals” against their properties. It makes some of us to think that they can promote a false flag in PoA and blame the Palestinians for it.

Tarso Genro suggested a meeting among Palestinian and Israelis ambassadors, for demonstrations of good will and peace, but the Palestinian ambassador in Brazil, Ibrahim Alzeben, refused the proposal. Palestine is an occupied country which people have been suffering ethnic cleaning since 19th century. Palestinians want and deserve freedom, justice and sovereignty, not normalization.

Recently, the Ethic Tribunal which would judge the Zionists acts against Palestinians and which would take place in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina — an initiative from Argentinean pro-Palestine organizations — was forbidden due to the pressure of Zionist lobby in Argentina.

It’s important that we join efforts for denounce those Zionist’s acts all over the world and that all of us lodge protests against those acts, through which Zionists want to silence Latin American public and prevent them to know the true about what Zionism movement is doing in Palestine, from before Nakba until now.

We count on you for publishing this alert and our protest against that action which is an attack against freedom of meeting and expression, and against the rescue of the historical true.

A strong statement from our southern neighbors, don’t you think? It seems that there’s Jewish power around every block in Brazil and Argentina, too. If we include the United States and Europe, that’s a lot of territory to cover.

Injustice demands extensive geographic coverage. The powers that be are on high alert.

The struggle against injustice keeps popping up around the world. At first, the Jewish establishment in Israel and America thought it could contain the discussion to its home turf. With the Holocaust advantage, it’s difficult for the opposition even to declare itself as such.

From the Jewish establishment’s perspective, it hasn’t mattered what people south of the border think about Israel and the Palestinians. Their power is limited and constrained. They don’t have the ear of the powerful nations when it comes to geo-political issues. Who’s listening to Brazil as a government or to some of its citizens on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?

Things might be changing, though. Lately, the concern seems to be growing. Any leak in the Israel boat needs to be plugged.

South America has been of no-account – Brazilians are barbarians – at least from the point of view of the powerful.

Strange, for so long Jews were the barbarians at Europe’s gates.

Today, the scene has shifted. Are Brazil’s barbarians at Israel’s gate?

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Burning Children: A Jewish View of the War in Gaza which can be found at www.newdiasporabooks.com

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17 Responses

  1. Shmuel
    November 3, 2012, 10:51 am

    Brazil is now a world power, not to be sneezed at, but I think there is something else at work here: a relatively new, zero tolerance by Zionist groups for positions and events perceived as critical of Israel (see e.g. the ballistic reaction to the very mild Christian leaders’ letter, or EU and especially SA positions on provenance labelling, or various “soft” divestment initiatives), combined with a growing sense of invincibility.

    I wonder if the general WSF organisers will have anything to say. I would think that Porto Alegre would have a lot to lose by pissing them off.

    • Mooser
      November 4, 2012, 2:01 pm

      As far as I’m concerned, Brazil has been a major power since the day I first heard Jobim.

      • Shmuel
        November 4, 2012, 2:11 pm

        As far as I’m concerned, Brazil has been a major power since the day I first heard Jobim.

        and Vinicius and Toquinho and Buarque and Gilberto and Powell and Gil and Veloso and Bethania and … and … and …

        Deus é Brasileiro!

      • Mooser
        November 5, 2012, 1:43 pm

        “and Vinicius and Toquinho and Buarque and Gilberto and Powell and Gil and Veloso and Bethania and … and … and … “

        Yup, but it was (like probably most Americans) Jobim I heard first and loved immediately. “Girl from Ipenema” most likely. And thank God for public radio, without which I would have heard nothing more from South America.

    • MRW
      November 4, 2012, 6:57 pm

      but I think there is something else at work here: a relatively new, zero tolerance by Zionist groups for positions and events perceived as critical of Israel (see e.g. the ballistic reaction to the very mild Christian leaders’ letter

      Another one: they’re going after Dr. Stephen Sizer in England, the world’s preeminent Christian Zionist scholar. A gentle, humble man, who is wicked smart. Reported here in The Forward, British Jews Complain About Anti-Israel Cleric, without a clear explanation of what he did. The Jewish Chronicle (England) is clearer. Here’s his crime, according to a British board president making the charge, Vivian Wineman:

      “This action sends a clear, strong message from our community that we will not remain quiet in the face of actions and remarks capable of being seen as antisemitic even where they are disguised as anti-Zionist attacks on Israel.”

      Sizer is supposed to speak in Scotland next week. The Jewish Chronicle reports

      Rev Sizer is due to discuss the roots of Christian Zionism at the Balfour Project conference at Edinburgh’s Quaker Meeting House.

      The event marks the 95th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

      SCoJeC wrote to the Church of Scotland last week claiming allowing Rev Sizer to speak “would be perceived as highly offensive throughout the Jewish community”.

      Ephraim Borowski, SCoJeC director, claimed that Rev Sizer had had repeated invited accusations of “Holocaust denial, right-wing extremism, and unabashed antisemitism”.

      But Rev John Chalmers, principal clerk of the Church of Scotland, said: “We agree that antisemitism must be confronted. However we believe that SCoJeC are misguided in their allegations about Rev Sizer”.

      The piece de resistance is Sizer describing in a Q&A last November in San Diego how Zionist groups will destroy you, what their sequence is, here, at 57 minutes (or a bit after). Took them less than a year to go after Sizer. But more importantly, in this clip around 1:02:00, Tom Getman takes the mike and tells a chilling story how these groups went after him after a warning while he was working for Senator Mark Hatfield.

      Zionist groups are not benign; they are ugly. And I second the Brazilian musicians and cachaca.

      • MRW
        November 4, 2012, 7:18 pm

        Actually, it starts at 1:02:00, but starting at 57 min is still interesting.

  2. Annie Robbins
    November 3, 2012, 11:15 am

    The Zionists ….said …. they fear attacks from Palestinian “radicals” against their properties. It makes some of us to think that they can promote a false flag in PoA and blame the Palestinians for it.

    the Ethic Tribunal which would judge the Zionists acts against Palestinians …… — was forbidden

    We count on you for publishing this alert …..

    thanks for getting the word out marc. i hope they find another location in brazil for the forum and not get bullied/crunched into shutting down. note the zionist federation does not fear attacks from Palestinian “radicals” against their properties if the forum is not allowed to proceed.

    • MLE
      November 4, 2012, 11:16 am

      That’s funny because its just so bizarre. There is fear amongst Brazilians for their lives and property, but that threat is mainly from regular crime and most homes and businesses are already equipped to handle these situations.

  3. Newclench
    November 3, 2012, 4:57 pm

    The way the words ‘Zionist’, ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zionists’ are used is off-putting. Makes the text look like a screed as opposed to a defense of free speech. I wonder if that’s a Latin American thing.

    That said, one interpretation seems to not have occurred to folks. That the sober folks in Rio Grande do Sul who are not Zionists and actually support the World Social Forum process are just the teensiest bit off-put by the strident tone of some of the organizers, and this makes it easier for them to bend in the direction of ‘the Zionists’ instead of standing up to them.

    And this is the political challenge: to find positions that folks as far left as Brazil’s Worker’s Party will want to defend with great vigor, instead of taking a few steps beyond that. I wonder if the rejection of a religious dialogue is connected to that. Why unite your opposition with your closest friends?

  4. DICKERSON3870
    November 4, 2012, 2:28 am

    ♦ RE: “It [the world-wide conspiracy of the "international Jews" for the overthrow of civilisation] has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the Nineteenth Century. . . The same phenomenon has been presented in Germany (especially in Bavaria), so far as this madness has been allowed to prey upon the temporary prostration of the German people.” ~ Herr Churchill (from his anti-Semitic screed above)

    ♦ MY COMMENT: Wouldn’t you just know that Netanyahu (the King of Israel) keeps a picture of Winston Churchill on a shelf behind his desk! ! !

    ♦ SEE: “‘King Bibi’ is ready for his close up, and ‘Time’ is willing to oblige”, by Craig Higgins, Mondoweiss, May 20, 2012

    I feel a little slow on the draw. ‘Time’ beat me, Barak Ravid of ‘Ha’aretz’ and everybody else to the punch to give Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu a massive dose of free publicity and attention that’s size-appropriate for his ego. One of America’s finest news publications decided to crown Bibi King of Israel! Long May He Reign! I mention Mr. Ravid because he almost sounds miffed about not getting to do the laying on of hands himself. . .
    . . . From the piece we are led to believe that the Prime Minister has risen to the ranks of peerage by brave deeds of political skill. . .
    . . . It’s also clear from the article that Netanyahu, a man who keeps a picture of Winston Churchill on a shelf behind his desk, is now eyeing his role as “a defining figure in Israeli history and a significant player on the world stage.” . . . It’s not enough that His Highness has power and prestige; he must also cement his claim to being a demigod in the pantheon of World Leaders.
    This kind of pomposity should surprise no-one; it has always been Netanyahu’s stock in trade. Stengel also dropped the tag word that sums up Bibi’s raison d’être as a political animal: Security. When he first ran for Prime Minister in 1996 they called him ‘Mr. Security’, meaning his focus was going to be more on swords than ploughshares. Nobody messed with Mr. Security then, except those who did, but now that he’s King Mr. Security it’s as if all the stars have aligned and the big moment has arrived for the former commando and son of a historian. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to mondoweiss.net

    • DICKERSON3870
      November 4, 2012, 4:07 am

      ALSO RE: “It [the world-wide conspiracy of the "international Jews" for the overthrow of civilisation] has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the Nineteenth Century. . . The same phenomenon has been presented in Germany (especially in Bavaria), so far as this madness has been allowed to prey upon the temporary prostration of the German people. ” ~ Herr Churchill (from his anti-Semitic screed above)

      MY COMMENT: Churchill’s comments about “international” and “terrorist” Jews reminds me of something quite shocking that I recently read about Louis Brandeis having touted Zionism to westerners by arguing that it would be better for Jews to go to Palestine than for them to remain in Europe (or emigrate to the U.S.) and thereby cause problems for the U.S. and Western Europe (as a consequence of these Jews pressing for reforms and/or supporting revolutionary movements in the U.S. and Western Europe). [I will try to find the source for this.]
      As much as I like Brandeis otherwise, I find this particular ‘talking point’ to be virtually tantamount to using (and possibly even promoting) anti-Semitism (and fears of communism) in Europe and the U.S. in order to encourage support for Zionism.

    • DICKERSON3870
      November 4, 2012, 4:14 am

      AND RE: “It [the world-wide conspiracy of the "international Jews" for the overthrow of civilisation] has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the Nineteenth Century. . . The same phenomenon has been presented in Germany (especially in Bavaria), so far as this madness has been allowed to prey upon the temporary prostration of the German people. ” ~ Herr Churchill (from his anti-Semitic screed above)

      CHURCHILL’S (ANTI-SEMITIC) WORDS LOOSELY TRANSLATED:
      Those “international Jews (terrorist Jews)” were an “existential threat” to civilization ! ! ! In fact, they were a far, far worse threat to civilization (most notably in Bavaria) than what Michael Oren today refers to as a mere “security concern” for Israel! ! !

      P.S. In reflecting upon Sir Winston Churchill’s anti-Semetic screed, factor in the fact that Churchill was born at/in Blenheim Palace, his ancestral home.

      • DICKERSON3870
        November 4, 2012, 4:31 am

        RE: “Sir Winston Churchill’s anti-Semetic screed” – me (above)

        SHOULD HAVE BEEN: Sir Winston Churchill’s anti-Semitic screed

  5. Shmuel
    November 4, 2012, 7:15 am

    The way the words ‘Zionist’, ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zionists’ are used is off-putting.

    So where do you think the initiative to block the WSFFP came from or how such groups should be identified? Do you think that the Federação Israelita do Rio Grande do Sul (Jewish Federation of Rio Grande do Sul) is not Zionist, or that it did not act out of Zionist motives?

    That the sober folks in Rio Grande do Sul who are not Zionists and actually support the World Social Forum process are just the teensiest bit off-put by the strident tone of some of the organizers

    What tone? Is it the fact that it’s called “Free Palestine”? Or its stated themes?

    - Self-determination and right of return
    – Human Rights, International Law and prosecution of war criminals
    – Strategies of struggle and solidarity – boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel as an example
    – For a world without walls, siege, racist discrimination and patriarchy
    – Palestinian Popular Resistance and the support of social movements

    Is it not “sober” to hold an event that focuses on Palestinian rights? What about events that are unabashedly pro-Israel (I’m sure the Federação itself – in Rio Grande do Sul and other Brazilian states – has held one or two of those in the past)?

    With all due respect to your “big tent” perspective, there must also be free and open discussion of Palestinian rights without concern for “diplomacy” or “balance”. The WSFFP was never meant to be the umpteenth why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along meet, sensitive to “both sides” and their “respective narratives”, and everybody knew it. I’d give the honourable mayor of Porto Alegre (a progressive city, no stranger to the WSF) and the governor of Rio Grande do Sul a little more credit than that.

    • Newclench
      November 4, 2012, 1:18 pm

      Shmuel… I’m glad Palestine is part of the WSF process. I’m disappointed that it is not equally open to different parts of the political world who support Palestinian rights, including two staters, folks who do not see BDS as the primary form of support, and others. The movement for Palestinian rights should, at all times, but one that runs a wide gamut of Palestinian political representation. This group seems to come from a specific corner, and they seek to define what is politically correct as part of an ongoing political struggle taking place inside the movement.
      and
      I’m sure that the folks giving the WSF a hard time are in fact, Zionists. But knowing that is true and sounding like those other folks did in that statement above are not the same thing.
      But you know what? I’m sure we agree that folks who support Israel’s occupation should not be welcome. And we probably agree that political representatives of Israel’s occupation enforcing parties (such as Labor or Kadima) would not be welcome. But that still leaves a much wider tent that seems to be in play at the moment.

      • Mooser
        November 4, 2012, 2:10 pm

        “But that still leaves a much wider tent that seems to be in play at the moment.”

        And if the tent is so wide that people couldn’t hear each other over the noise and across the distance, Newclench would be ecstatic!

      • Mooser
        November 5, 2012, 1:50 pm

        “The way the words ‘Zionist’, ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zionists’ are used is off-putting.”

        You mean that the use of the words “‘Zionist’, ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zionists’” reflects the actions and history of the Zionists? In other words, reality? Yeah, that can be a big problem, huh.

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