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A single Latuff cartoon has provoked Israel into exposing its own duplicity

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro (C) greets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) in Brasilia on 1 January 2019 [NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images]
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro (C) greets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) in Brasilia on 1 January 2019 [NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images]

Overseas humanitarian missions are relished by Israel, for they provide an excellent façade and distraction from its most definitely non-humanitarian agenda against the Palestinians. The latest Israel Defence Forces (IDF) search and rescue mission in Brazil following the collapse of a dam was no exception. Upon completion of the mission, an official Israeli statement read: “Our aid mission to Brazil has come to an end and our soldiers will soon be heading home to Israel. Brazil, we are proud to have been by your side.”

No mention is made of the diplomatic ties between Brazil and Israel, or the right-wing agenda espoused by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Common to both leaders is the persecution of indigenous populations for the purpose of state-sponsored land grab.

The duplicitous Israeli agenda was not lost on Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who depicted the politics behind the propaganda in a cartoon showing Bolsonaro welcoming Israeli soldiers, smeared with blood, excusing themselves for arriving late due to having been involved in murdering Palestinians. According to Israeli media, of course, the cartoon is “anti-Semitic”.

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Latuff’s art prompted a response by an Israeli counterpart, cartoonist Uri Fink, who created a caricature of an Israeli soldier attempting to rescue a child and being prevented to do so by a BDS supporter. Unlike Latuff’s cartoon, Fink’s bears no relation to any actual event, so carries no weight of factual accuracy to drive home its message. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement does not impede humanitarian missions; it is merely civil society and individuals calling for a coherent strategy of isolating Israel based upon the refusal to normalise the state’s violations of Palestinian rights.

Fink’s tirade against Latuff was summed up in one quote:

It is acceptable to criticise a nation’s policies, even harshly, but when it sends people to help save lives in your country, the least you could do is shut the f*** up!

Fink’s extremely coarse and irrational response is by no means unique. It sends the message that Israel’s international endeavours should provide it with perpetual immunity from being accountable for its colonial violence in Palestine. Regardless of any purported anger, this kind of response reeks of undeserved entitlement; a colonial power cannot ever claim humanitarianism as an integral part of its achievements.

The Brazil endeavour, for example, does not cancel out the atrocities committed within just two weeks in January, as reported by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). As Latuff correctly depicted, the IDF is perpetually engaged in murder – shooting unarmed civilians on the nominal border with Gaza, for example — and the brief venture into Brazil does not alter the colonial state’s shoot-to-kill policy one iota. Vigorous criticism of Israel should continue unhindered, especially when the uniformed representatives of the state enter one’s own country to promote a false image of Israel’s military as a humane and moral body of men and women. Israel’s sporadic humanitarian action is part of a very definite political agenda.

Thus, Israel’s propaganda stint in Brazil is an exercise in consolidating diplomacy, as Latuff’s cartoon clearly exposed. Participating in humanitarian missions for this purpose is part of the colonial agenda and deserves as much scrutiny as Israel’s ongoing colonisation of Palestine. After all, the Zionist state has a history of exporting its murderous violence globally.

Likewise, it is also blatantly seeking to balance humanitarian assistance in return for international support of its colonisation of Palestine and continued immunity from prosecution. It is, therefore, pertinent that the Latuff cartoon exposes what lies behind the false veneer that Israel presents to the world and which has been endorsed by many countries as they wilfully dissociate the state from its foundation and colonial violence in occupied Palestine.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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