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

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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 The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and

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