About Hezbollah in Brazil

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By SALEM NASSER

In Brazil, and in the West, 99,9% of people know nothing about Hezbollah; Of the rest, some people know some things, but not enough

I was writing a long overdue post about Palestine, trying to provide a partial assessment of the situation...

And suddenly the hottest news in the city (at least in Brazil) becomes that about the arrest of two Brazilian men – supposedly of Lebanese nationality as well – on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks in Brazil, against Jewish buildings and targets, and of belonging to a terrorist organization.

All this, we were told and reported, pointing to a connection with the Lebanese Hezbollah! A very important part of the story had to do with the fact that the Israeli Mossad was the party responsible for uncovering the conspiracy.

Let me say from the beginning: nothing I know about the Middle East, Lebanon, Hezbollah, and about Brazil, São Paulo, the border region between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, and nothing I know about the Arab and Islamic scenario in Brazil, absolutely nothing, allows me to conceive, for a moment, that there would be some credence to the idea of ​​Hezbollah planning an attack in Brazil!

Now, I must also say: I studied law and I teach law; for some time, in the distant past, I worked in criminal law; All of this taught me that you cannot comment on an ongoing judicial process, an ongoing criminal investigation, if you do not have access to the information. And it is true that I do not have any access to the facts under investigation.

In Brazil, however, we are used to investigation material being handed over to journalists and commented on by the media. You have access to these secondary sources, but it is impossible to trust their content. You have to deal with information by doubting everything, all the time.

The third thing I must say is this: in Brazil, and, I would add, in the West, 99,9% of people know nothing about Hezbollah; Of the rest, some people know some things, but not enough. Despite this, we have been trained, for 30 or 40 years, to imagine the worst scenes of illegitimate violence as soon as the name is mentioned. For most of us, there is an automatic link between the name and the notion of terrorism. We were told that and we naturalized it.

It's not just ignorance. It is ignorance combined with powerful negative prejudice. In these circumstances, once such news is released, it spreads very easily and will be considered true, in its worst version, even if it is later proven that it has no substance.

The expected effects are produced instantly and cannot be undone by a possible future demonstration that there was no reality in the news or accusations.

We probably don't know any more about Mossad than we know about Hezbollah, but we have also been fed an image of it: the image of a very capable, perhaps the best in the world, and ruthless intelligence body that seeks and obtains revenge on its enemies. anywhere in the world.

When I heard that the Mossad was the source of the investigations – and the Israelis were quick and insistent in releasing this information – I thought we should at least consider the possibility that we have a different conspiracy before our eyes. After all, an organization that will stop at nothing, even taking credit for murders around the world, would not feel prevented from creating a false terrorist conspiracy by moral considerations. I wouldn't hesitate if I saw any political gain arising from this.

Just a hypothesis

The parts of the investigation that the media choose to make public – it appears that some media outlets had access to at least the full statement of one of the detainees, but we don't know what is not published – tell us a few things: the suspect would have made exchanges via WhatsApp with a Paraguayan number; he would have received some money, around US$500,00, from a contact in São Paulo, in a neighborhood known for the large number of Arab traders who operate their businesses there; he would then have been taken to Lebanon and housed in hotels; he would have had a long meeting with a head of the organization and would have been told that it would be necessary to have strength to kill and kidnap; he, at that moment, would have said that he did not have that disposition; Only when he was back in Brazil did the suspect realize that he had been the target of a Hezbollah recruitment attempt!! If this last statement is true, he may have just imagined that he had been in contact with members of Hezbollah...

So, considering only what is available to all of us, as public information, which, however, should always be doubted, and considering what the suspect allegedly revealed to the Federal Police, I would say that: it is perfectly possible that the the suspects may have committed crimes and were planning other crimes; there may be evidence of exchanges and communications between them and with other suspects that would be incriminating; someone may have said, heard or imagined that they were dealing with members of Hezbollah. None of these things would be enough to give credibility to the thesis of real Hezbollah involvement, alone or in combination.

What was revealed from the suspect's statement to the police tells us that the person does not know enough about Lebanon or Hezbollah. It also gives the impression that the suspects were not and are not capable and experienced agents who would be chosen for intelligence or sabotage operations.

Again, everything I know about Hezbollah tells me that the group – the political party and resistance movement – ​​that represents such an important part of the Lebanese social and political landscape, is not committed to organizing attacks against civilians in any way. part of the world. And he also tells me that what they do, they do professionally.

Therefore, I am not convinced that whatever the suspects were involved in had anything to do with Hezbollah.

I know, however, that this and everything else is up to Federal Policy and the Brazilian Judiciary to clarify and judge. And the mission of these institutions is very vital, for more reasons than one.

The first reason, obvious and vital, is to guarantee security and peace in Brazilian society. Any suspicion of violent acts in preparation must be thoroughly investigated and, if real, prevented and punished.

The other equally vital importance of the mission is this: I fear that such accusations, directed immediately against Hezbollah, may have the purpose or unintended consequence of hurting a part of the Brazilian population, namely Muslim Brazilians and specifically Muslims Shiites and Lebanese ancestry.

As long as we uncritically accept the demonization of Hezbollah and view with suspicion anyone who claims to have “contacts” with Hezbollah, we run the risk of criminalizing each and every Lebanese and each and every Shia Muslim.

* Salem Nasser is a professor at the Faculty of Law of FGV-SP. Author of, among other books, Global law: norms and their relationships (Alamedina). [https://amzn.to/3s3s64E]


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