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Netanyahu and Bolsonaro find common ground in oppressing indigenous populations

August 29, 2019 at 5:10 pm

Fire raging on in the Amazon rain forest [Twitter]

While the Amazon forest burns and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to trade insults and blame, indigenous communities face displacement and annihilation. These communities pose the biggest obstacle to Bolsonaro’s intent to allow access to local and international exploitation of the country’s natural resources.

In a message to counter the purported “disinformation campaign built against our nation’s sovereignty”, Bolsonaro said his country remains “open to dialogue, based on respect, truth and awareness of our sovereignty.” To put it briefly, let there be no voices raised regarding the fact that Brazil’s right-wing president has no qualms about exploiting the Amazon fires to further deforestation for agribusiness and, in turn, marginalise the importance of indigenous communities and their ties to their land.

Israel’s propaganda offer to fight the forest fires does not seem to have elicited the international attention usually garnered by its so-called humanitarian endeavours, even as it continues to displace Palestinians and ravage their land. Israeli media has portrayed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer as joining “a chorus of international concern.” That purported concern, however, does not extend to clamouring for the protection of communities threatened by both the fires and Bolsonaro’s politics.

The bottom line of Israel’s cooperation with Brazil is that of two right-wing governments whose intent is to displace indigenous communities from their land.  Although no updates have been forthcoming following the initial offer, Israel National News declared, “Israel has become Brazil’s closest ally in battling fires currently raging in the Amazon rainforest.”

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If Israel is indeed Brazil’s closest ally, putting out the Amazon fires has nothing to do with the diplomatic relationship that sustains the continuation of human rights violations and dispossession which Netanyahu and Bolsonaro have championed without encountering any collective, political opposition.

At face value, Brazil and Israel can feign concern for the Amazon and environmental destruction. Their politics, however, speaks otherwise.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wave to the press during a visit to the Western wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in the Old City of Jerusalem on 1 April, 2019 [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images]

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on 1 April 2019 [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images]

In January this year, Bolsonaro stripped National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) of its responsibility for indigenous territories and handed that over to the agricultural ministry, which has ties to the ruralists.

Continuing on what the Jewish National Fund achieved in terms of Palestinian dispossession since before the 1948 Nakba, Israel’s expansion and targeting of Palestinian infrastructure has wrought environmental damage to the detriment of Palestinians. Yet this destruction has not prevented Israel from branding itself, also with the help of the UN, as capable of assisting African countries whose land has been over-exploited.

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Neither has Israel been held accountable for the damages it inflicted upon Palestinians as it encroaches upon their land. There are different parameters when it comes to measuring Israel’s contributions to environmental destruction and its assistance to developing countries. The latter is classified as an achievement, while depriving Palestinians of their right to land is not a matter of concern to the international community.

Likewise, international concern for the Amazon does not extend to saving the indigenous communities, threatened by Bolsonaro since his first day in office. Away from their alleged environmental preoccupations, as evidenced by both governments’ belated responses to the unfolding disaster, Netanyahu and Bolsonaro are merely bolstering their trajectories in wiping out the indigenous communities who claim the land.

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