Porto Alegre Is Palestine’s Friend, So Why Has It Embraced Israel’s War Industry?


Tarso Genro, governor of Rio Grande do Sol in Brazil, concluded a deal to develop a huge Israeli military technology center in Porto Alegre over the past few weeks. One day before signing the contract with the arms company , Genro was in the occupied West Bank, where he witnessed first-hand the oppression on which Israel’s weapons industry thrives.

Perhaps even more painful than the signing of the deal itself are the arguments he later gave to “defend” his action. It was very sad to see Genro stating — in an interview with the Brazilian publication Opera Mundi — that international law and human rights are not criteria for international commercial relations.

Confronted with Elbit’s track record of violations of human rights and international law, Genro argued that “It is not possible to decide on technological options, at [the] national or regional level, based on this criteria.” He added that “Ethics in global commercial relations is defined by national interests” (“ line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>, both of which are considered war crimes. Because of this involvement in violations of international law, Elbit is subject to a global campaign to stop contracts and investments in it.

In his interview with Opera Mundi, Genro defended the deal as an issue of national interest. The same argument was brought forward in the 1970s and early ’80s by the line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Dirty business

Getting out of the dirty business in time has proven to be the better choice economically. The Palestinian line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> (BDS) is only seven years old, and is today at a stage that South African activists reached only after two decades.

Elbit itself has admitted that BDS is having impact. Its latest line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Corruption

Furthermore, the high level of corruption in the entire Israeli military sector has been denounced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“ 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>,” 16 December 2009).

Meanwhile, both India and the Philippines have banned some Israeli companies from bidding for contracts because of bribery (“ line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>“Silence of the good people”

During his visit to the West Bank, Genro heard many appeals from Palestinians urging him not to go ahead with this risky deal. At a reception for the delegation in Ramallah (at which this writer was present), Musa Hadid, the city’s mayor, made this eloquent plea: “Martin Luther King once said ‘The greatest tragedy is not the brutality of the evil people, but rather the silence of the good people.’ You are our friends, part of the good guys, and we hope you stand up against injustice.”

Rio del Grande do Sul has shown its support for the Palestinians on many occasions. Last year, Porto Alegre even welcomed a gathering of the line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
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