Monday 26 February 2024 - 21:07

The Evolution of Brazil-Israel Relations: Transitioning from Harmony to Diplomatic Strain

Story Code : 1118786
The Evolution of Brazil-Israel Relations: Transitioning from Harmony to Diplomatic Strain
Recently, Brazil recalled its ambassador from Israel and rejected accusations from Tel Aviv officials regarding President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's alleged anti-Semitism. Previously, President Lula da Silva compared Israel's Gaza offensive, resulting in approximately 30,000 Palestinian casualties, to Hitler's Holocaust during World War II. These statements provoked a swift response from Tel Aviv, with Zionists charging the Brazilian President with anti-Semitism.

In retaliation, Israel summoned the Brazilian ambassador, demanding a retraction of Lula's remarks. However, Brazil, defying Tel Aviv's demands, withdrew its ambassador from Israel.

Presently, tensions between Brazil and Israel have peaked, with both sides drifting further apart with each passing day.

Since the onset of the Gaza War, Brazil has vehemently condemned it as an unequal conflict and criticized the atrocities committed against women and children. Moreover, as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Brazil has backed all resolutions advocating for a ceasefire in Gaza, despite the United States vetoing all ceasefire proposals. Over the past few decades, Brazil has consistently supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Brazil-Israel Relations Across Two Distinct Eras

Overall, it's important to highlight that, unlike the current strained relations between Brazil and Israel, the two countries have gone through periods of both cooperation and discord in the past. Historically, Brazil and Israel have encountered phases of both tense and friendly relations, similar to the present situation.

Brazil-Israel Harmonious Relations

Brazil played a role in the establishment of Israel in 1948, a period known as the Nakba. Brazil's presidency of the United Nations General Assembly in November 1947 marked the introduction of the partition plan for Palestine, with the Brazilian government playing a significant role in its endorsement. The plan, proposed by Britain, aimed to divide Palestine to create a Zionist regime.

Oswaldo Aranha, Brazil's former foreign minister who chaired the Brazilian delegation to the United Nations at the time, also presided over the UN General Assembly and played a crucial role in the discussions surrounding the partition plan. According to Gerson Menandro Garcia de Freitas, Brazil's former ambassador to Israel, Aranha realized on the day of the partition vote that the plan lacked adequate support, prompting him to request speakers to postpone the decision. Nevertheless, enough votes were secured to establish the Zionist regime on the second day of voting. Today, streets in Tel Aviv and Beersheba bear Aranha's name, and in occupied al-Quds, a square is dedicated to this Brazilian diplomat. Brazil was also among the first countries to formally recognize the Zionist regime in 1949.

Presently, Brazil is home to over 100,000 Jews, constituting the second-largest Jewish community in Latin America.

Under the leadership of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, relations between Brazil and Israel experienced significant expansion, with Bolsonaro positioning Brazil as a close ally of Israel. During a meeting between Bolsonaro and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, in 2018, Bolsonaro honored Netanyahu with a national award, a recognition previously granted by Brazil to figures like Queen Elizabeth II and Dwight Eisenhower, former President of the United States. Bolsonaro also expressed intentions to emulate the United States' decision to relocate the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to al-Quds. However, this proposal sparked controversy. During his visit to the occupied territories in 2019 alongside Netanyahu, Bolsonaro visited the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site. Rather than a complete embassy relocation, Bolsonaro inaugurated a non-diplomatic commercial office in al-Quds during that trip.

The Era of Tension in Tel Aviv-Brazil Relations

The present turmoil in Brazil-Israel relations is not unprecedented; rather, both sides have experienced historical tensions in their interaction. For instance, during Dilma Rousseff's presidency in Brazil in 2014, she criticized Israel's actions against Palestinians. Brazil even recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv at that time, leading to escalating tensions characterized by Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesperson describing Brazil as diplomatically insignificant.

In 2014, Brazil, along with 28 other nations, supported UN Human Rights Council investigations into allegations of Israeli human rights violations during the Gaza War.

In November of the previous year, Israel's Mossad publicly disclosed the identification and confrontation of Hezbollah-linked groups in Brazil, prompting an irate response from Brazil. Brazil's Justice Minister, Flavio Dino, rebuffed Tel Aviv's assertions, emphasizing Brazil's sovereignty and rejecting foreign interference in its security matters. These strained relations intensified with Israel's offensive in Gaza, pushed diplomatic ties between the two nations to the brink of rupture.

In his recent statements, Brazil's President asserted, "The events unfolding in the Gaza Strip are not merely warfare; they constitute genocide. This conflict is not soldier versus soldier but rather a well-equipped army targeting innocent women and children."

Abdel Bari Atwan, the chief editor of Raialyoum newspaper, has also commented on the stance of Brazil's President Lula da Silva regarding the Gaza conflict: "As Arabs and Muslims, we will always remember the brave stand taken by those who refused to remain silent and opposed the atrocities committed by the Zionist regime and the United States in Gaza. Leading this charge is President Lula da Silva of Brazil, who boldly accused the Zionist regime of perpetrating genocide in Gaza and drew parallels between the killings and ethnic cleansing in the region to the Holocaust. While countries in Latin America such as Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico expelled Zionist regime ambassadors and shuttered their embassies, our Arab brethren lacked the resolve to take similar actions. Instead, some of them hurried to establish a land corridor from the Emirates to Haifa, traversing Saudi Arabia and Jordan, to supply fresh provisions to the Zionist perpetrators following the naval blockade of Zionist regime and allied vessels in the Red Sea by the Yemeni army. All this while children in Gaza suffer from hunger, deprived of even a morsel of bread or a can of milk."