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Brazil and Palestine

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The Logic Behind South American Countries’ Support for a Palestinian State

December 27th 2010

Latin American Topics - da silva and abbas
José Inázio Lula Da Silva and Mahmoud Abbas

In December, Brazil recognized the creation of a Palestinian state (with pre-1967 borders) while the U.S was making serious efforts to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together. The creation of a Palestinian state has been supported not only by President Barack Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush but also by every Israeli Prime Minister in the last decade including the current one, Benjamin Netanyahu. This move, was followed by Argentina and Bolivia; most likely, Uruguay will follow early next year. However, Brazil’s leadership and initiative in this endeavor is clear.

What is Brazil’s motivation?

Brazil under the government of Jose Inazio Lula Da Silva has become more and more involved in international affairs. Such involvement is motivated by Brazil’s economic growth. Brazil is the eighth largest economy in the world and as such it demands the status of a world power. Brazil has demanded to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and its ambitions are growing.

Thus, Brazil has developed an international foreign policy aimed at creating a multi-polar world. Along with China, India, and Russia, Brazil seeks a multi-polar world where the United States is not the only superpower. According to their thinking, world power is best shared among a number of countries. This scenario is not necessarily a bad one if maximum cooperation is achieved between these different political poles. If a number of powerful countries could work together to solve problems such as nuclear proliferation, world stability, or human rights, it would be not only beneficial for humanity but also would unburden the U.S from the monopoly of responsibility in those areas.

However, this is not what Lula—whose term expires on January 1—has in mind. Jorge Castaneda, a former Mexican Foreign Minister, has accurately observed that Brazil is part of a group of countries that “more or less explicitly and more or less actively” oppose notions such as human rights, democracy, and non-proliferation. Lula’s policy is deprived of any global responsibility and it is motivated by obsolete notions of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. Thus, Brazil’s multi-polar philosophy is aimed at generating solidarity and cooperation with developing countries, and, at the same time, reducing U.S influence in the world. Nothing proves this point better than Brazil’s attempt to reach an agreement with Iran on the latter’s nuclear program.

Indeed, Brazil joined forces with Turkey late in 2010 to cut a deal with Iran separate from the U.S.- and European-led efforts. The deal that Brazil and Turkey proposed would not only have failed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but also encouraged it to develop more. This agreement called for the transfer of low enriched uranium to Turkey without discussing the 20 percent enrichment activities that Iran began early in 2010. Turkey, in principle would enrich the uranium and return it to Iran ready for medical and other civilian uses. The deal neither stipulated that Iran discontinue uranium enrichment at home nor that Iran allow inspectors into its nuclear facilities. In addition, the deal laid down the right of every country—including the Islamic Republic of Iran—to develop, research, produce, and use nuclear energy and the nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment activities, “for peaceful purposes and without discrimination.” In other words, the deal had nothing to do with the problem of nuclear proliferation or with Iran’s nuclear program. It rather served Iran’s interests in delaying UN Security council sanctions and derailing ensuing U.S-led economic sanctions.

After this deal was bluntly rejected by the Americans and the Europeans, an indignant Brazil voted against sanctions on Iran imposed by the UN Security Council. Brazil has opposed sanctions against Iran with the argument that sanctions would only harden Iran’s position. Moreover when Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman requested that Brazil use its influence to stop Iran’s nuclear program, Lula criticized Israel’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, stating that Brazil would like to see “a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.” That response of course not only disregards Iran’s physical threat to Israel if the former were to acquire nuclear weapons; it also dismissed the fact that if Israel has chosen to develop nuclear weapons, it was by virtue of the fact that the Jewish state is the only country in the world whose enemies have pledged to wipe it off the map. But Lula seemed to care very little for such details.

Thus, Brazil moved to a next step: the unilateral creation of a Palestinian state. Brazil argued that its declaration was intended to force the peace process out of its stagnation. About a week after making this move, Brazil openly declared that peace in the Middle East would not be achieved as long as the United States is the mediator.

This confirms Lula’s aspiration to reduce U.S. influence in world affairs.

The premises and logic of Lula’s thinking are grounded in the idea that peace has not been achieved because the United States sides with Israel. At the same time, Lula’s view assumes that a peace agreement between Israel, (an American ally) and the Palestinians has not been reached because of Israel’s intransigence.

This bias is far from coincidental.

Since Lula took over the reins of power in Brazil in 2002 he has developed a South-South alliance, a sort of economic, politcal and spiritual alliance between developing countries. As part of this philosophy, Latin American-Arab summits have taken place under the auspices of Brazil. A South American-Arab summit took place in May 2005 in Brazil aimed at expanding economic, political, cultural, and spiritual ties between the two regions. Brazil was the main sponsor of that summit. In the end of the summit “the Brasilia Declaration” was adopted, which included a number of resolutions. One supported the elimination of the “Syria Accountability Act”, a law passed by the U.S. government to impose sanctions on Syria amid its support for terrorism. Another resolution supported the territorial integrity of Sudan and commends the Government of Sudan for its assistance in trying to solve the problem in the Darfur region, without mentioning the Government of Sudan’s own responsibility in leading to the genocide taking place in that region. The resolution also calls to combat terrorism but calls for an international conference to study and define terrorism in such a way as to avoid a clear and unequivocal condemnation of terrorism. Regarding the Middle East, there is a call for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem. In addition, it calls for the International Court of Justice to require Israel to tear down the security fence which Israel built to prevent terrorist attacks that threatened the lives of Israeli citizens.

A second Arab-South American summit took place in April 2009 in Qatar. Even though such summit called for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, it demanded that Israel withdraw from every piece of territory it conquered in 1967 including the Golan Heights. It supported a Palestinian state; it praised the Palestinian leadership, but demanded nothing from them, as if such leadership were at no fault. Yet, it condemned with strong words Israel’s legitimate and self-defensive campaign against Hamas in Gaza. Likewise, it called Israel to reopen all the crossing points between Israel and Gaza as if Hamas’s Gaza were Switzerland or Canada.

Similarly, there was a resolution calling for a nuclear-free Middle East, clearly aimed at Israel, the only country believed to posses nuclear weapons in the region. Iran was not mentioned by name.

These declarations contain the typical Arab ambiguity towards terrorism and genocide as well as a generally anti-Israel bias.

The perversion of Lula’s thinking is that it has ignored the fact that Israel offered concessions to the Palestinians three times. They included the creation of a Palestinian state and the division of Jerusalem. In return Israel faced either massive terrorist attacks or Palestinian rejection. Brazil has also refused to take notice of the fact that Israel has unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza and dismantled its settlements only to face missile attacks from Hamas-dominated Gaza.

Lula has willingly bought into the Arab narrative according to which the powerful American-supported Israel oppresses the poor Palestinian nation. Brazil does not view Israel as a country surrounded by a hostile environment and threatened by a nuclear Iran, a country that has helped exacerbate the conflict by supporting Hamas and sponsoring a Hezbollah-led asymmetric war against Israel from its northern border. Brazil has chosen not to see that oil-rich Arab countries have boycotted Israel for decades and have cynically used the Palestinian refugees to encourage and perpetuate a bloody war historically initiated by Arab states and Palestinians alike.

Lula has asked Israel to make concessions but has done nothing to convey to his Arab and Iranian friends that de-legitimizing Israel, launching a war of terrorism against her, developing mass incitement against Israelis and Jews, and planning for Israel’s annihilation is not to be tolerated. Lula did not demand that his buddies stop this set of negative actions as a supreme condition to achieve peace. In other words, the image of mediator and conciliator that Brazil is trying to project is not reflected in its deeds.

Brazil wants to be a key leader of the Third World (or the South) but instead of changing its negative international stand it has adopted its most vicious prejudices. This alone should disqualify Brazil from playing any role in the Middle East.

Luis Fleischman is a professor of Sociology and Political Science at Florida Atlantic University Honors College and a contributor to The Cutting Edge News.


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