“Elbit out of Brazil!” - Protests in Porto Alegre target the Israeli military company
In Brazil the 15th of May - ‘Nakba Day’, that commemorates the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands between 1947 to 1949 to make space for the founding of the State of Israel - was a day of active solidarity with Palestine and against Elbit Systems. Elbit is the Israeli military company that produces, among others, the Israeli drones used to kill and terrorize Palestinians in Gaza and the surveillance technology for the Apartheid Wall.
While in occupied Palestine the Israeli military killed two Palestinian youth - Muhammad Abu al Audah Thahir (16 years) and Nadim Nuwarah Siyam ( 17 years), - with live bullets to the chest during a protest marking the 66th anniversary of the Nakba, whilst Brazilian activists were out in the streets protesting the military relations between their country and Israel.
In Porto Alegre (capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul), already at 6:30 am trade unionists of the CUT, activists of the World March of Women and members of the local Palestinian community gathered in front of the doors of AEL Sistemas, the subsidiary of Elbit located in the city, and blocked the work of the criminal company for two hours as they prevented the workers from entering the compound. They demonstrated against Israeli occupation and apartheid, its numerous sponsors and supporters around the world and the presence of this criminal company in the city. The protesters cited war crimes attributed to Elbit Systems and denounced that Elbit/AEL profit from the Apartheid Wall that isolates Palestinian communities. The president of the CUT in Rio Grande do Sul, Claudio Nespolo, declared "We're here in front of this company because we are against the ideology and technology of total control, exclusion, repression and racism exported by Elbit."
The protest was spurred in particular by the ongoing contract between the government of Rio Grande do Sul, the local universities and Elbit/AEL to build a military microsatellite. (see:http://electronicintifada.net/content/porto-alegre-palestines-friend-so-...) In the leaflet they handed to the workers outside the company’s doors they explained: “As workers we do not want our work to supports this. As citizens of Rio Grande do Sul, we do not want that our universities, students and teachers participate in this partnership that directly supports Israeli apartheid and its wars, deepens the militarization of society and the privatization of research at the service of corporations - in this case, war criminals. We do not want to host Israeli apartheid but peace and solidarity between people.”
The World March of Women, who participated in the blockade as part of the National Day of Action against Elbit they had declared, underlined in their statement that this cooperation agreement with Elbit to be developed with public funding “will make Rio Grande do Sul complicit in war crimes, placing Brazil responsible for the expansion of a company that destroys people's lives daily. In wars and militarized territories women are most affected!"
The day before, students of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul had occupied the presidency of the university and placed the demand for an immediate end to the cooperation of the university with Elbit as one of their core demands. Students declared in their public notice of occupation, which was triggered by the invasion of the military police of the School of Physical Education, that 'in this context - in which the university dean condones repression - as students, we cannot help remembering that this is the same university that has an infamous military agreement with the Israeli security firm Elbit [named in Brazil AEL] to produce a military satellite. We do not want our university to be used for developing these merchants of death who profit hugely from Israeli apartheid and promote the genocide of the Palestinian people! Dark times are approaching and facts like this are crucial to know who is who and for whom serves the production of academic knowledge."
Finally, during the May 15 protests against World Cup spending and related human rights violations, such as displacements of poor communities, military invasions into the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, laws imposed by the FIFA to curb freedom of expression during the World Cup, Palestine was on the agenda. During the National Assembly of the Popular World Cup Committees a few weeks ago, the delegates chose May 15 for national mobilization and recognized that: “the Palestinian people are directly affected by the World Cup in Brazil since there is a significant flow of funding from public coffers to the Israeli military-industrial complex, supporting the policy of genocide and apartheid against the Palestinians." Especially in Porto Alegre and São Paulo the protests were highlighting how the world Cup has served to transfer Israeli repressive methods to Brazil and has financed Elbit as well as other Israeli military companies. The Porto Alegre based Elbit/AEL gives logistic support and maintenance to the 5 Hermes drones that will be hovering over the World Cup games.
The protest against Elbit in Brazil and the contract in Rio Grande do Sul, which should guarantee Elbit the possibility to build their first military microsatellite, are not going to stop. The movements are already planning further action. This public opposition builds as well on the fact that the microsatellite contract did not gain the expected support at federal level. The Brazilian national fund for research and development approved only roughly ten percent of the budget requested by Elbit/AEL. There is a good chance that soon Brazil and Porto Alegre can give a clear and concrete response to all those Israeli pundits that think Latin America will fund their apartheid regime when other sources of money are slowing down.