Demonstrators from the BDS campaign in Brazil (boycotts, divestments and sanctions) showed their solidarity with Palestine last week when they staged protests at the LAAD Fair. The LAAD fair (The Latin American Aerospace and Defence Exhibition) took place at the RioCentro in Rio de Janeiro from the 9 – 12 April and had been dubbed by activists the “Fair of Death”.
A group armed only with BDS T-shirts and Keffiyehs (Palestinian scarves) first staged a protest at the entrance to the fair; opening a large Palestinian flag and banners with slogans such as “Military Embargo on Israel now!” and “President Rousseff, stop buying weapons from Israel”. The group represents The Front for the Defence of the Palestinian People which is a collection of dozens of Brazilian civil society organizations. Brazil is one of the top five Israeli arms importers, a fact emphasized by the presence of over 30 Israeli companies that occupied the RioCentro at the fair. The “Israel” stall had consequently conquered a position covering the biggest exposition area in the entire fairground.
It is disheartening to note that the vice-president of Brazil, Michel Temer, and Defence Minister, Celso Amorim, were both addressing the opening of an event which has Israeli technology of war and repression at its heart and which has turned into a major platform to strengthen Israeli control over Brazil’s defence industry. This squarely contradicts fundamental Brazilian political commitments and legal obligations.
The second protest occurred inside the fair where demonstrators walked through the entire fair, speaking out against the occupation of Palestine. However, amazingly, as they tried to get close to the stalls of the Israeli war industry they were stopped and asked for their passports by the Israeli Security Service; as if an Israeli checkpoint had been established in Rio de Janeiro! The area of the LAAD appeared to have been occupied under the noses of state and federal governments and attempts made to deny the citizens of Brazil their democratic right to freedom of expression and demonstration.
Despite attempts to intimidate “unwanted” visitors in the inner area of the fair, demonstrators were able to confirm the presence of weapons of apartheid and various Israeli military technologies which have been tested on Palestinians; for example, the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) which has been used in recent attacks on Gaza in the occupied territory.
The LAAD was officially sponsored by Embraer (Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica), who maintains close links with the state of Israel and has contracts with Israeli Elbit Systems (another company exhibiting at the fair that operates in the area of military technology and built the famous UAV). It is also one of 12 companies involved in the construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank in occupied Palestine. Through the company Ares Aerospace, Elbit recently won two new very lucrative contracts with the Brazilian Army. The government of Rio Grande do Sul also intends to expand its presence in Brazil, with an aerospace center design based on the AEL in Porto Alegre. With this, the state capital might become the hub of the most important Israeli military research abroad. This project, funded by public money, also gives advantages to businesses based on the crimes committed by Israel.
In order to end these military relationships with Israel a manifesto has been sent to the Brazilian authorities by the BDS campaign which rejects the presence of Israel in the LAAD. This manifesto points out the close link between the importation of these military technologies and the repression of the young, poor and black populations in the buying countries. The manifesto has been signed and supported by more than 30 organizations.
Below is a copy of the manifesto and a list of the signatories:
We Say No to Complicity with Israeli Apartheid!
From April 9 -12, in Rio de Janeiro, close to 30 Israeli companies, complicit in occupation and apartheid in Palestine, will be among the exhibitors at the LAAD Fair (The Latin American Aerospace and Defense Exhibition), referred to by social justice groups as the “Death Fair”. In recent years, Brazil has become one of the five largest importers of so-called Israeli security and defense technologies: a billion-dollar industry for the occupying power. The LAAD Fair is a major opportunity for the Israeli apartheid regime to further increase its profits and is an affront to human rights.
Embraer (Brazilian Aircraft Manufacturer), LAAD’s official sponsor, maintains contracts with the Israeli company, Elbit Systems, one of the fair’s exhibitors. Elbit acts in the ar ea of military technology, manufacturing VANTS (unmanned aerial vehicles/drones) which were used in recent attacks on Gaza. Elbit is one of the 12 companies involved in the construction of the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank in Occupied Palestine. In October of 2012, during the UN General Assembly, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, Richard Falk, called for the boycotting of Elbit Systems. Present in Brazil for the last 15 years, Elbit operates through its subsidiaries AEL, Periscópio Equipamentos Optrônicos S/A (Periscope Optronics Equipment) and Ares Aeroespacial e Defesa (Ares Aerospace and Defense). Through Ares Aeroespacial, Elbit recently acquired two million-dollar contracts with the Brazilian Army. In hopes of facilitating business relations with Israeli co mpanies, the Brazilian Armed Forces has maintained an office in Tel Aviv since 2003. Concerning Elbit, the government of Rio Grande do Sul (southern Brazilian state) is planning on expanding its presence in Brazil, facilitating the denationalization of industry. Brazil’s complicity further increases with an aeropace outpost project housed within Elbit subsidiary, AEL, in Porto Alegre (city in Rio Grande do Sul.) With this project, the southern state capital could become Israel’s most important foreign military research outpost. Such a project, financed with public money, also provides benefits for business transactions which are linked to Israel’s crimes and human rights violations.
Another LAAD exhibitor and Brazilian Armed Forces supplier, Israel Aircraft Industries, produces equipment for the Israeli occupation forces, the Apartheid Wall and the illegal settlements. In Brazil, Grupo Sinergy and Israeli Aircraft Industries subsidiary, Bedek, formed a joint venture named “EAE Soluções Aeroespacias” (EAE Aerospace Solutions). This joint venture utilizes TAP M&E Brasil’s production and maintenance centers in Rio De Janeiro and Porto Alegre. With sights set on contracts involving the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics (to be held in Brazil), delegation trips between the two countries have become a common occurrence. According to media reports, the Brazilian government plans to invest R$1,17 billion (one point one seven billion Brazilian Reals) in security contracts for the World Cup. Israel would like to acquire as many of these contracts as possible. The LAAD fair, one of the sector’s most important events in all of Latin America, actively faciliates such negotiations. Rio de Janeiro, the events host city, recently bought eight new armored vehicles (referred to as “caveirões” in Portuguese) to be employed by the Military Police in the overall repression of the state’s population of poor black youth.
Civil society organizations comprising Frente em Defesa do Povo Palestino-SP (Front in Defense of the Palestinian People- São Paulo) and the BDS Brasil campaign (Brazilian campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) denounce the “Death Fair” along with the presence in Brazil of companies complicit in apartheid and occupation imposed upon the Palestinian people. We demand an immediate end to military contracts and agreements with Israel, which are a violation of Brazil’s obligations under international law.
BDS Brazil Campaign
Frente em Defesa do Povo Palestino-SP
Centro Cultural Árabe-Palestino do Rio Grande do Sul
Comitê Brasileiro de Defesa dos Direitos do Povo Palestino
Comitê Catarinense de Solidariedade ao Povo Palestino
Comitê de Solidariedade à Luta do Povo Palestino do Rio de Janeiro
Frente Palestina da USP (Universidade de São Paulo)
Anel – Assembleia Nacional dos Estudantes – Livre!
Apropuc-SP – Associação dos Professores da PUC-SP (Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo)
CAS – Coletivo de Artistas Socialistas
Ciranda Internacional de Comunicação Compartilhada
Coletivo de Mulheres Ana Montenegro
Coletivo Periferia, Nossa Faixa de Gaza
Comitê Indígena Revolucionário
CSP-Conlutas – Central Sindical e Popular
CUT – Central Única dos Trabalhadores
DCE Livre da USP “Alexandre Vannucchi Leme”
Frente de Defesa aos Ameaçados de Morte
MML – Movimento Mulheres em Luta
MMM – Marcha Mundial das Mulheres
Mopat – Movimento Palestina para Tod@s
Movimento Mães de Maio
MST – Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra
PCB – Partido Comunista Brasileiro
PSTU – Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado
Sindicato dos Metalúrgicos de São José dos Campos
Stop the Wall
Tribunal Popular da Terra
Tribunal Popular: o Estado brasileiro no banco dos réus
União da Juventude Pró-Palestina do Brasil