Reports: Clarice Cudischevitch
While in Europe anti-Semitism is increasing at alarming rate, in other regions it passes almost unnoticed, although it still exists. It is the case of Brazil, where discrimination against Jews has been manifested mainly in politics and is masqueraded as anti -Zionism.
This is the opinion of the Brazilian historian Michel Gherman, Master in Anthropology and Sociology and Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Center for Jewish Studies at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (NIEJ-UFRJ). He claims that the Brazilian society always had low levels of anti-Semitism, at least compared to the common acts in Europe - attacks on Jews in the streets, on synagogues, anti-Semitic graffiti on walls etc. However, in recent years the strengthening of anti-Semitism was observed in parties of the far- Left. "This is not historic, it's contemporary, and it is quite disturbing."
According to Gherman, this phenomenon has been happening because of the influence that certain interpretations of the Palestinian - Israeli conflict gives to the Jewish question. "These parties talk about the conflict, but use clear anti-Semitic elements and present Zionism and the State of Israel as the dominant world capital. It is a position of radical Islam that the Brazilian Left just incorporated, and long ago it stopped being just an Israel-Palestine issue."
Some of these parties also incorporate in their discourse the concept of conspiracionism, very strong in what is called the new anti-Semitism, and that also had a very important role in the more traditional anti-Semitism . "It is a concept which states that, in addition to the objective and subjective forces of history, there are specific groups who have secret designs for the world", Gherman says. Perhaps the earliest implementation of this model of conspiracionism was the book "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", emerged in Russia shortly before 1900, which affirms there was a Jewish plan to control the world, along with the Masons.
These elements were recovered in the 21st century, by radical Islam, which puts Jews and Zionists as leaders who dominate the world and have the power to control. "Therefore I say that this position is not limited to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It's about a logic of domination. And as the Left parties have a very anti -capitalist profile, they follow the radical Islamic tradition that thinks society has to go back - it is reactionary, not revolutionary.
Among the parties that adopt this stance in Brazil, one of the most popular is the Unified Socialist Party of Workers (PSTU) , with Trotskyist trend. On their website, there are many texts that expose a radical Islamic stance. "Another party that increasingly incorporates these aspects in its speech is the Brazilian Communist Party ( PCB ), which is scary", Gherman says. “It is a more serious case because it is a party that has always had a lot of Jewish presence and now has clear anti-Semitic elements in the analysis made about the Arab-Israeli conflict ."
In 2010 , PCB has reproduced an article by Argentine journalist Manuel Freytas, entitled “The owners of the system - The hidden power: Where the impunity of Israel is born” (link in Portuguese: http://www.pcb.org.br/portal/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1724:os-donos-do-sistema&catid=43:imperialismo. Link in English [pg.15] http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/international-affairs/2010-English-antisemitism_venezuela_gazaflotilla.pdf). The party was prosecuted by Israeli Confederation of Brazil (Conib), which alleged practice of anti-Semitism. The text makes clear references to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." It states, for example, that “the Jewish state, beyond its impact as a nation, is the most representative symbol of a world power controlled in its decisive spaces by Jewish minority groups and formed by a structure of strategists and technocrats who run the transnational capitalism's industrial, technological, military, financial and media networks, spread to the four cardinal points of the planet”. "This document does not leave any doubt", says Gherman.
Recently, the Brazilian soap opera "Love for Life", which ended over a month ago, portrayed a love story between a Jewish and a Palestinian, which generated outrage in many institutions, parties and movements in the country. A letter which had as signatories various pro-Palestinian movements and organizations such as the The Landless Workers Movement (MST) and the World March of Women, besides Left parties, condemned the way the Palestinian character was presented. An excerpt of the letter says that "every time a reference is made to Palestine, it talks about war, which presupposes two equal sides vying for territory. In fact, it is a distortion of reality: it has an oppressor and occupier (Israel) and an oppressed (Palestinians). In any time, the novel refers to the apartheid wall, the innumerable checkpoints that Palestinians are subjected, as well as the racist laws that are enforced to them and the ethnic cleansing and ongoing attacks against them." (link in Portuguese: http://atarde.uol.com.br/cultura/televisao/materias/1561742-personagens-de-amor-a-vida-irritam-movimentos-pro-palestina)
Nevertheless, Michel Gherman alerts to the fact that, if everything is understood as anti-Semitism, the focus is distorted. "I am against this kind of attitude that says if it is against Israel, it is anti-Semitic. It is not the Palestinian flag that will transform movements in anti-Semitic. It is the way they deal with the theme and put Zionism as the ruler of the world."
The historian adds that there are also cases of violence against Jews in Brazil, but they are few and peripherals. "There are neo-Nazi groups in São Paulo and in the South, for example, but that is not related to politics. They are very specific cases of aggression." Gherman said that although the Jews are ideologically a target for neo-Nazis, they are not the main victim of this movement in Brazil - as they are in the case of the extreme Left. The neo-Nazi often attacks the Northeast people, blacks and homosexuals (Brazil is the first country worldwide in terms of homophobic murders, according to the Report of Assassination LGBT 2012).
In addition, there have been cases of anti-Semitic incidents among supporters of football teams such as Juventude, from Rio Grande do Sul, in which organized crowd carried Nazi flags. But also in these cases, there is no systematization. Gherman recognizes that anti-Semitism in Brazil is a subject of debate and there are different positions among historians. "There is a historiography that attempts to increase the social influence of anti-Semitic ideas. My point of view is that there is an exaggeration, because there was never an actual Jewish persecution in the country."
The subject is controversial. Historian Maria Luiza Tucci Carneiro, for example, author of " Anti-Semitism in the Vargas Era", argues that the Brazilian government in the period called the New State, initiated by President Getúlio Vargas between 1937 and 1945, aligned to the Nazi regime and prevented the immigration of Jewish refugees and survivors of concentration camps. Gherman opines that, although there were some key figures in the Vargas government that were anti-Semitic, there wasn’t indeed a persecution of Jews in the country. "No Jewish organization was effectively closed, unless it was communist, that was the real focus of combat. There was also a chase of languages that hit Polish, German and Italian communities. It was a radical nationalist era, which had anti-Semitic influences, but not overflowed in society , it was restricted to the government ."
Brazilians know little about the Holocaust
Historian Bruno Leal, also a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center for Jewish Studies, adds that anti-Semitism in the Brazilian far-left is something new and unexpected. That's because it did not cease to grow in the far-right, where it traditionally rises, because it has always been associated with religious and conservative movements. In the case of the far-left, it is related to the mistaken idea that the entire State of Israel is right, their parties are right. "You just have to visit Israel and see that it is not like that, it is a complex country with various movements. It would be a trap to fall into this simplification."
Leal underscores the fact that, in Brazil, it is common to treat subjects with an essentialist identity: if a person did something that is anti-Semitic , then he is anti-Semitic . However, people have contradictions - in the morning , they say one thing and later they say another. "A person can say something negative about Jews, but have a Jewish neighbor that he likes a lot. We see this today, for example, in graffiti and manifestations that sometimes do not have anything related to Israel, but it protests against imperialism and ends up including Israel."
The space that propagates most of these manifestations has been the internet. There are forums and videos talking about "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and promoting a series of anti-Semitic ideas that have already been dismantled, but continue serving as a base. "On the Internet, this discourse is more associated with the right, and the people who reproduce are anything but naive, they know exactly what they are talking about and they have a well-defined ideological position. It is different from someone who was in a manifestation of a left-wing party in Brazil and suddenly joined a group that burned an Israeli flag. The profiles are different ."
The historian says it is hard to define whether these discourses on the internet are growing or are just more evident - which is troubling, because it increases the power of these groups to conquer an audience. "They disclose theories involving large Jewish families, talk about how the Jews are present in the medi, the economy , they associate the crisis in Brazil to the Jews. Old theories are being implemented in these new media spaces."
It is also important to mention that, in Brazil, little is known about the Holocaust, which contributes to the absorption of stereotypes. The research " The knowledge and memory of the Holocaust in Brazil", performed for the American Jewish Comittee in 2001, revealed that 77 % of respondents could not tell the meaning of the term "Holocaust". In addition, 37 % said they "prefer to not have" Jews as neighbors, a significant portion.
"The space devoted to the Holocaust in schools is very small, usually confined to a box in the chapters on World War II in the history books", Leal says. "It is therefore important Jewish organizations to approach and talk about Jewish culture, convey more knowledge on these spaces and break stereotypes. It is necessary to teach Judaism in schools in the vicinity, not only in Jewish schools."