Brazil in the face of the Palestinian genocide

Image: Youssef Elbelghiti
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By GILBERTO MARINGONI*

Brazil repeats in its foreign policy its ambiguous, withdrawn and timid conduct in the face of complex situations

In ten months, the Lula government changed the face of Brazil. We left a fascist and obscurantist government, responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the pandemic and for becoming pariahs in the international system, and returned to less infamous times. However, the federal administration shows its limits by not entering into any divided political and economic sphere and by giving in to all pressure from the right and the extreme right.

Hesitant and defensive behavior cannot be explained solely by the broad political front that supports the government. There are guidelines issued by the presidential office itself that now highlight serious inconsistencies in what was once the most vaunted jewel of the PT governments, foreign policy. Let's start by talking about some contrasts.

At the beginning of the fourth week of Israel's attacks on the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip, three South American countries decided to take courageous measures against Zionist brutality.

The boldest attitude was taken by the Bolivian government, led by Luís Arce. “Bolivia has decided to sever diplomatic relations with the State of Israel in repudiation and condemnation of the aggressive and disproportionate Israeli military offensive, which is being carried out in the Gaza Strip,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Freddy Mamani on Tuesday (31).

The President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, in turn, recalled his ambassador in Tel-Aviv back to Bogotá, under the following argument: “If Israel does not stop the massacre of the Palestinian people, we will not be able to be there”. The gesture of calling the ambassador denotes a serious diplomatic crisis. It is the step before closing the embassy and breaking relations between two countries.

On the same day, Chile, chaired by Gabriel Boric, repeated the gesture. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement denouncing “the unacceptable violations of International Humanitarian Law that Israel committed in the Gaza Strip”. There he lives the most numerous Palestinian community outside the Middle East. The next day, Jordan, Israel's biggest ally in the Middle East, did the same thing.

If we count on the rising tone of criticism from authorities in Turkey, South Africa, China and Russia, among others, and the growing wave of popular demonstrations around the world, one observation can be made: Israel is beginning to lose the battle in global public opinion and isolates itself together with the United States. It is possible that, in the military field, it will begin to face problems in the land invasion of Gaza. The ongoing ethnic cleansing has points of contact with the search for so-called vital space that the Nazi armed forces carried out in their attempt to steal territories to the East, starting in 1941.

What is the behavior of Brazil and its “active and proud diplomacy”, in a confrontation that is beginning to show global ramifications? Despite the historic victory over the far right a year ago, the Lula government's performance in this area is beginning to disappoint. Ambiguous, withdrawn and timid conduct in the face of complex situations is repeated in foreign policy. Apparently we no longer have the diplomacy that “doesn't talk tough with Bolivia and doesn't talk soft with the United States”, as Chico Buarque said in 2010. Now the one who talks tough with the strong is precisely Bolivia, while Brazil goes back to talking tough with the strong. the other side.

Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira gave a speech on Monday (30), at the last meeting of the UN Security Council chaired by Brazil. Claiming to feel “a deep sense of urgency and consternation”, the chancellor said that the conflict between Israel and Palestine was “tragically reignited by the terrorist actions of Hamas”.

It continues: “The current situation in Gaza is deeply terrible and indefensible by any human standard and in light of international humanitarian law. An alarming humanitarian catastrophe unfolds before our eyes, with thousands of civilians, including an overwhelming and intolerable number of children, being punished for crimes they did not commit. In three weeks, we have seen this conflict claim the lives of more than eight thousand civilians, of which more than three thousand are children.”

Strong words, weak content. The chancellor is an ace at constructing thundering sentences without a subject. If we ask, based on their gibberish, who took eight thousand lives, the answer is already given: “the conflict”. Clear! Of course, who else? The culprit of everything is the damn conflict.

There is more: “Since October 7th, we have met several times and considered four draft resolutions. However, we remain at an impasse due to internal differences.”

Who caused the impasse? “Internal disagreements”, obviously. Damn disagreements only serve to get in the way! Vieira is that caricatured diplomat, with restrained gestures, indecipherable gaze, who shows no emotions and who reads speeches with the excitement of someone narrating a medicine leaflet. He creates drama, but does not point out paths: “The eyes of the world are fixed on us and will not move away from our distressing inability to act.” Mauro Vieira's intervention could be read here.

President Lula decided to draw analogies between the killings in Gaza and domestic life, on the last day of October, taking advantage of the ceremony to sanction the law that guarantees pensions to orphans of victims of feminicide. “Solving the problem around a negotiation table, around a conversation, is much cheaper, much easier, much more economical. A couple at home, when they have a disagreement, sit at a table, talk, discuss. It’s not possible for us to come to an end because of a disagreement, because of jealousy.”

Lula's speech is – with all due respect – a mockery. There is a negotiating table called the UN General Assembly, at which both sides are present. Last week, Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, in addition to not wanting any negotiations, also called for the resignation of the Organization's secretary general, the Portuguese moderate António Guterres. The reason? António Guterres had stated days before that Hamas' action did not happen “in a vacuum”. Around the table, the Zionist decided to turn it around.

Lula is aware of this situation and throws words to the wind. More serious is the president comparing a 75-year-old tragedy – motivated by the theft of land, expulsion of Palestinians, indiscriminate killing and support from Washington – to a couple's fight. It's an attempt to make fun of someone else's catastrophe.

But Lula doesn't stop there. Further on, he reveals: “We are seeing for the first time a war in which the majority of those killed are children and no one is responsible. We can't write a letter from the UN convincing people that they are fighting and stop. For the love of God, stop!”

“For the love of God, stop?” Like this? Is Lula a citizen without any power or prerogative, with no alternative other than to beg the Almighty to intervene in this valley of tears? Or is she the leader of one of the largest countries in the world, fully capable of making incisive decisions on the global stage? After the appeal to God comes another prayer without a subject: “The majority of the dead are children”. Did they die by divine act? By the unfathomable hand of Destiny? Or did someone kill them? Who? “The war”, as well as “the conflict” and “divergences”, mentioned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Lula and Mauro Vieira speak the same language, that of tergiversation. With their words they seem to admit that it was a bad deal for Brazil to assume the presidency of the CSUN precisely in the middle of this confusion. The country made a positive gesture by trying to build a consensual resolution, vetoed by the USA, but at no point did it point to responsibility for the killing. And it was efficient in bringing back Brazilians who were in conflict regions.

But at no point did he make a similar accusation against Israel as the one made against Hamas. Not even summoning the Israeli ambassador to Brazil to voice a protest was done. We have a foreign policy that is closer to a public relations dynamic and empty rhetoric, but incapable of taking sides. Brazil returned, but the world became more complicated. And it seems like we didn't prepare for that.

Brazilian diplomacy has not always exhibited the current ambiguity in relation to Israel. The country clearly stood against the USA's main ally in the Middle East in the dark times of the military dictatorship. In other words, even in those very difficult years we had more objective diplomacy.

We will mention some examples of this external conduct, described in the article “The place of Israel and Palestine in Brazilian foreign policy: anti-Semitism, majority vote or promoter of peace?”, by Tullo Vigevani and Guilherme Casarões, published in 2014.

The first episode is from 1974, during the Geisel Government and materializes in the speech by Chancellor Azeredo da Silveira at the opening of the 29th. UN General Assembly. When referring to the Six-Day War of 1967, which resulted in the occupation of Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, Silveira classifies it as a “war of conquest” by Israel. The minister said: “The objection to the war of conquest is a constant in the history of Brazil, it is a precept inscribed in our fundamental law. We consider the right to territorial integrity and the obligation to respect sovereignty to be absolute. Consequently, we believe that the eviction of occupied territories is, unquestionably, an integral part of the solution to the conflict.”

Casarãos and Vigevani continue: “The strongest signaling of the position interpreted as pro-Brazilian Arab would come, however, the following year, in November 1975. Brazil was one of the three South American nations (along with Cuba and Mexico) to vote in favor of the decision to declare that Zionism represented a form of racism and racial discrimination, through UNGA Resolution 3379. By condemning Israel in what was considered by that State to be the essence of its national movement, the Brazilian government joined several other developing countries in what for some was the most controversial decision taken within the scope of the United Nations”. Brazil openly challenged Washington and Western European countries.

The resolution would be revoked in 1991 under pressure from Israel and its allies, as a precondition for the peace negotiations that culminated in the Oslo agreements in 1994 (and which Israel never fulfilled).

The third example is in Chancellor Ramiro Saraiva Guerreiro's speech at the opening of the 36th. UN General Assembly, in September 1981, already during the last and chaotic government of the dictatorship, that of João Figueiredo: “My Government firmly adheres to this purpose in order to obtain the conditions it considers indispensable for peace: the complete withdrawal of forces of occupation of all Arab territories; the exercise of the right of the Palestinian people to return to Palestine and the recognition of their right to self-determination, independence and sovereignty; the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in peace negotiations; and the recognition of the right of all States in the region to exist in peace within recognized borders.”

On September 27, 1982, General João Figueiredo himself opened the General Assembly. His speech is direct when referring to the massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps committed by Maronite militias ten days earlier, in territory occupied by Israel. The number of murders may have reached 3,5: “I see, with enormous apprehension, the persistence of the crisis in the Middle East, whose most prominent aspects are, at this moment, the conflict between Iraq and Iran and the consequences of the action military that victimized Lebanon, a country with which we maintain deep and fraternal relations. Only recently, world opinion was deeply shocked by the massacre of Palestinian civilians in Beirut. We all know that the issue of the Middle East will only find a solution when the Arab territories currently under military occupation are vacated and the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign State is recognized, as well as the right of all countries in the region, including Israel, to live in peace, within recognized borders.”

The amazing thing about these interventions is that they took place – let's repeat – when Brazil was experiencing the leaden years of a military dictatorship. The country had much less importance on the global scene and a large part of society fought against authoritarianism and the lack of democracy. In addition to Brazil almost half a century ago, smaller countries such as Bolivia, Colombia and Chile no longer have ambiguities and hesitations to identify who is responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in Gaza.

What does it take for the Lula government to put aside an inexplicable neutrality that does nothing to help resolve the Zionist cataclysm? This equidistance favors who? Let's think of a prayer with a subject to answer.

*Gilberto Maringoni, is a journalist and professor of International Relations at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC).


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