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Elbit Systems loses key Brazil deal over Palestine protests

The Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul has cancelled a major collaboration deal with Israeli military company Elbit Systems in the wake of protests over the firm’s role in oppression of Palestinians.

Brazilian social movements and trade unions and Palestinian groups had called on authorities to cancel the deal over Elbit’s role in the construction of Israel’s illegal apartheid Wall in the occupied West Bank and its close relationship with the Israeli military.

Tarson Nuñéz, the coordinator of the international relations department of the Rio Grande do Sul government described his government’s decision by saying:

“Our government has always given centrality to the promotion of peace and human rights and considers the demands of the social movements and important voice that needs to be heard. Today’s announcement is a logical consequence of this.”

Drones supplied by Elbit Systems were tested during Israel’s recent attack on Gaza that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, and Elbit’s share price has risen since the massacre as investors anticipated a rise in orders of technology that was used for the first time during the attacks.

Rio Grande do Sul governor Tarso Genro had signed a research cooperation deal making Elbit the first Israeli military company to lead Brazilian military projects in April 2013. Elbit was to be provided access to public funding and technologies produced by four local universities. Ongoing protests and lack of federal support had weakened the project. In his open letter, Genro declared the memorandum of understanding to be “void of meaning”.

A $17m plan to build a military satellite is among the projects cancelled by Tuesday’s announcement.

The announcement has been welcomed as a major victory for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, a Palestinian led campaign for the South Africa-style international isolation of Israel.

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian Stop the Wall campaign, a member of the BDS National Committee coalition of organisations that leads the BDS movement, said:

“Elbit Systems has become a symbol of Israel’s construction of an apartheid wall in occupied Palestine and its military aggression against our people. Israel is only able to sustain its human rights violations because of international collaboration including through deals such as the one that the Rio Grande do Sul government has now cancelled.”

“In the wake of Israel’s massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, we hope that other governments will take steps to end military cooperation with Israel.”

Brazilian organisations including the CUT trade union federation, the World March of Women and local student groups and political parties had all pressured the Rio Grande do Sul authorities to cancel the deal with Elbit Systems and even blockaded entrances to premises owned by Elbit subsidiary AEL Sistemas. The Palestinian embassy and the Palestinian Federation in Brazil have repeatedly intervened with the government.

The rector of the university leading aerospace research in the region had declared that the university would not work with Elbit Systems on any research that could have military research, casting the viability of the memorandum of understanding into doubt.

Antonio Lisboa, secretary of international relations at the CUT trade union federation, said:

“This welcome decision of the government of Rio Grande do Sul reflects the growing opposition to Israel’s apartheid policies. The Brazilian government must now cut all military ties with Israel, a state that practices state terrorism against Palestinians.”

In 2009, the Norwegian state pension fund divested from Elbit Systems, and more than a dozen institutional investors have since followed this example.

Elbit factories in the UK and Australia were occupied during Israel’s recent Gaza massacre.

Governments and local authorities are increasingly taking action against corporate complicity with Israeli violations of international law. At least 17 EU governments have warned businesses about the risks of doing business in illegal Israeli settlements. French multinational Veolia has lost more than $20bn in contracts with local authorities over its provision of infrastructure services to illegal Israeli settlements.

Rio Grande do Sul had already stated to play an important role regarding the question of Palestine when in 2012 the World Social Forum Free Palestine was held in Porto Alegre.

Mahmoud Nawajaa, the coordinator with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, said:

“This decision is an important example of how the grassroots organizing of the BDS movement can influence and change government policy. Earlier this week, we met under the umbrella of the UN to discuss effective measures to coordinate policies by local governments to exclude companies that help Israel violate international law from public contracts”.

Jamal Juma’ from Stop the Wall added:

“Today’s decision gives hope to all Palestinians resisting Israel’s brutal apartheid system. We thank all those movements and activists that have made this victory for Palestinian rights possible”.

(Originally published at

Palestinian BDS National Committee

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. For more information, visit

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15 Responses

  1. ivri on December 3, 2014, 5:59 pm

    You lose some you gain some – in a parallel development Elbit will have no time for anybody given the just signed huge defense contracts with India (which is about to be one of the biggest economies in the world).

    • annie on December 4, 2014, 4:38 pm

      ivri, isn’t india’s gdp about a 1/5 of brazil’s?

      brazil has the 7th largest economy in the world. india the 10th. they are both brics but brazil is hotter.

      • ivri on December 5, 2014, 4:56 am

        But there is Annie also the underlying trend: India is on a continual growth curve and it could become (especially under its new leader) one of the world biggest – it has huge untapped potential. In contrast, I think Brazil is losing steam. In any case for small Israel an economic partner like India is a truly big thing (and just in the defense sector).
        This comes at a critical juncture for Israel given the current crucial need to reduce reliance on Europe and thus be less vulnerable to threatened economic sanctions of it (given its increased wish to impose its political will on Israel in regard to the West-Bank).

      • annie on December 5, 2014, 4:35 pm

        speaking of underlying trends ivri, any idea why so many pro israel activists keep spending so much energy trying to counter bds while claiming at the same time it is ineffective? i keep hearing how it won’t work but it seems if that were true pro israel advocates would be encouraging it, as a fruitless diversion of their adversaries. but instead, they spend so much time and so many resources working against it. i can’t figure this one out. any ideas? (assuming you agree it’s a worthless endeavor, or do you agree it is a huge threat).

      • ivri on December 6, 2014, 5:12 am

        Yes, Annie, there is an apparent paradox here and its explanation may lie in the psychological realm. Israelis, have grown up in a constant state of fear – the many threats, the many wars, the smallness of the country (especially in its earlier years) – and that became an endemic part of their psyche. What characterizes this psychological state is overreaction – threats are magnified and fears run up high quick. BDS is after all a form of war, economic, and thus gives rise to those primal existential fears and the accompanied instinct of counteraction. Fighting back has become a second nature here.
        The tremendous growth of Israel happened only over generation or two – Israel has become a mini superpower (e.g. it competes with the real superpowers of this world in the military and technological realms) – and people`s mindset don`t change that fast. So a gap has developed between reality and its perception.
        There is also a collective psychological reaction to BDS, which is after all a modern form of exclusion. Israel, being the land of the Jews, carries the memories of past anti-Semitism, which was about being ostracized and harmed as a group, so it now it feels as if the old ugly beast is back again and hence need to be fought forcefully.

      • annie on December 6, 2014, 6:33 am

        iow, if i understand you correctly, you agree fighting bds is a worthless endeavor, but since it is a “modern form of exclusion” it needs to be fought forcefully?

      • lonely rico on December 6, 2014, 1:40 pm


        From CIA World Factbook (2013)

        GDP –
        India $US 4.99 trillion (ranked 4th in the world)
        Brazil $US 2.42 trillion (ranked 8th in the world)

        So India’s GDP is twice Brazil’s.

        ivri might be interested in the following –
        “Growth in 2013 fell to a decade low, as India’s economic leaders struggled to improve the country’s wide fiscal and current account deficits.”

        And ivri, such a success story, Elbit in India !
        Helps to forget all those
        murdered and maimed children
        this past summer.
        Sleep tight ivri.

      • annie on December 6, 2014, 3:09 pm

        hmm, i just googled “GDP india” and a graph appears from the world bank

        2.246 trillion USD
        1.877 trillion USD

        so perhaps the world bank and the cia just don’t agree.

        The economy of India is the tenth-largest in the world by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP).[2]

        the source is the international money fund for 2014

        Brazil has the seventh largest economy by nominal GDP in the world, and seventh largest by purchasing power parity. The Brazilian economy is characterized by moderately free markets and an inward-oriented economy.
        Brazil’s economy is the largest of the Latin American nations and the second largest in the western hemisphere.[16] Brazil is one of the fastest-growing major economies in the world with an average annual GDP growth rate of over 5 percent. In future decades, Brazil is expected to become one of the five largest economies in the world.[17][18]

        but this one agrees w/you!

        strange. anyway, maybe they are out of date. did you know china just passed the US as the strongest economy in the world? yesterday!

  2. Kay24 on December 3, 2014, 6:00 pm

    It is utterly disgusting to think that there are human beings who invest in such companies, and take advantage of a brutal massacre, and the decimation of a city. Getting rich off the death of civilians, especially children shows greed, and a soul-less human being.

  3. ivri on December 4, 2014, 7:41 am

    You mean, US, Russian (and the rest) companies…

  4. DaBakr on December 4, 2014, 3:14 pm

    A very good spin on a relatively minor contract. But yes-in the way the BDS campaign is being waged I would agree that “every little victory” provides some degree support. Do I think it will work in the end? No. But, as MW posters are well aware-many in even the so-called ‘liberal pro-Zionist’ camps think that some form of bds will help move Israel towards a greater accommodation of Palestinian demands. And truly…it can hard;ly be expected that a site like MW would not promote any bds victory let alone provide a platform for every bds defeat. Its just not how advocacy journalism works.

    But I do follow MW for news on bds ‘victories’ that would not be published any where else on the internet.

  5. Horizontal on December 4, 2014, 3:29 pm

    Remember the always classy Israel, unable to take the least amount of criticism from abroad?

    In a statement on Wednesday, Brazil condemned what it said was a “disproportionate use of force” by Israel in its Gaza Strip offensive by pulling out its ambassador from Tel Aviv for “consultation.” The country is the second country to recall its ambassador from Israel; Ecuador did so earlier in the week.

    At first, the official reaction from Israel appeared sanguine. “Brazil is a friend, but we think its position is not balanced,” Israel’s general consul in São Paulo, Yoel Barnea, said according to the Wall Street Journal, adding that Israel should have a right to defend itself from the thousands of missiles being fired at it by Hamas and other Palestinian groups.

    Things soon took a turn for the worse. “This is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on Thursday, the Jerusalem Post reports. “The moral relativism behind this move makes Brazil an irrelevant diplomatic partner, one who creates problems rather than contributes to solutions.”

    That insult wasn’t the worst that Israel had reserved for Brazil, however. In an interview with the Brazilian media, Palmor brought up the most humiliating moment in recent Brazilian history – this summer’s stunning World Cup semifinal loss to Germany.

    “Israel’s response is perfectly proportioned in accordance with international law,” Palmor said in an interview with the Jornal Nacional TV show late Thursday. “This is not football. In football, when a game ends in a draw, you think it is proportional, but when it finishes 7-1 it’s disproportionate. Sorry to say, but not so in real life and under international law.”

    Brazil’s foreign minister, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, hit back at the “dwarf” insult. “We are one of 11 countries worldwide that have diplomatic relations with all UN members, and have a history of cooperation for peace and international actions for peace,” Figueiredo said in an interview with CBN radio. “If there are any diplomatic dwarfs, Brazil is not one of them.”

    Seems like Latin American countries can recognize a strutting colonial power when they see one. One more win for the good guys.

    • eljay on December 4, 2014, 3:39 pm

      “Israel’s response is perfectly proportioned in accordance with international law,” Palmor said in an interview with the Jornal Nacional TV show late Thursday.

      I see that Mr. Palmor failed to indicate which parts of…
      – Jewish terrorism;
      – the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes and lands;
      – the establishment of a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” that engages in colonialism, expansionism and the oppression of the people under its military occupation; and
      – refusal to honour obligations under international law,
      …are in accordance with international law.

    • lysias on December 4, 2014, 5:27 pm

      I kind of doubt that bringing up the World Cup is much of a way for Israel to win friends and influence people in Brazil.

      • Walid on December 5, 2014, 1:07 pm

        Elbit losing out on a joint deal of $17 million is not a big victory and almost as absurd as the divestment from it of a couple of millions by the Norwegian sovereign fund a few years back. At the time, Elbit’s annual report indicated it had back orders of several billions, which made the amount of the divestment almost a joke; at the time, the Norwegians maintained about $500 million in investments in various other Israeli companies.

        Among its various contracts, it’s currently building integrated fixed towers ($145 MM) on an apartheid wall in Arizona for the US to keep the Mexicans out.

        Over at Richard Silverstein, he’s discussing an alleged $300 MM deal between an Israeli security firm and the UAE. This bit of news dilutes whatever gains from the $17 MM story.

        BDS has to stop pussyfooting around the settlements issue and go after companies with investments in Israel proper.

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