Transferring the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is back on the table. This time, however, it's thanks to Brazilian president's son Eduardo Bolsonaro in an interview with Israeli Ambassador to Brazil Yossi Shelley, in the series Brazil Needs to Know on his YouTube channel on 24 October.
The discussion extended for more than an hour, and several topics were raised such as transferring the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem, celebrating the Arab-Israeli normalisation deals, criticising the previous Brazilian governments for recognising the Palestinian state and glorifying the heroes of the Fauda series. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his son launched a new phase of Brazil's foreign policy and its relationship with Israel – a completely new chapter in foreign relations and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"We are waiting for the transfer," indicated Ambassador Shelley, recalling President Bolsonaro's promise. The Israeli ambassador requested during the interview for the Brazilian government to keep their promise and move the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Parliamentarian Eduardo Bolsonaro was surprised and laughed, but signalled to agree with the ambassador.
Brazil's intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem was first announced in 2018 after Bolsonaro won the presidential election, but Bolsonaro retracted his promise in May. He visited Israel in March 2019 and was expected to announce whether he planned to move the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Instead, Bolsonaro announced that Brazil would open a commercial office in Jerusalem.
In December 2019, Brazilian parliamentarian Eduardo Bolsonaro came to Israel and opened APEX-Brasil's trade office in Jerusalem, and reported through The Times of Israel that it was the first step towards moving his country's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem sometime within the next year. "Yes. It will happen. Let us just do it in a smart way," he commented on the embassy move. The question has returned now in 2020, through the interview between Bolsonaro and Shelley, with the hope of keeping the promise in 2021.
🇮🇱 No caminho de volta para o Brasil fiz questão de parar por 10 horas em Israel para ter a honra de discursar hoje na inauguração do escritório de negócios da @ApexBrasil em Jerusalem. Trata-se do 1º passo para a transferência da embaixada (continua) pic.twitter.com/BTVZTnuxzL
— Eduardo Bolsonaro🇧🇷 (@BolsonaroSP) December 15, 2019
In an interview with Federal Deputy Alexandre Padilha, he informed MEMO that Bolsonaro's decision is a mistake and has a direct impact on Brazil's historical partners. Padilha also believes that in the case of a Trump defeat in the US elections, Bolsonaro will be even more isolated: "He has to review any aggressive posture toward Brazil's important partners, whether in the foreign trade or international geopolitics."
The Israeli ambassador did not miss the opportunity to criticise the previous Brazilian governments for their recognition of the Palestinian state in 2010, with most other Latin American countries following suit. For the ambassador, the former governments of the Brazilian presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff were "terrible" for commercial relations with Israel.
According to Padilha, Shelley's criticism is "absurd" and does not respect the tradition of Brazilian foreign policy. Padilha's view is that Bolsonaro's attitude breaks the whole tradition of Brazilian foreign policy: "He seeks to destroy the set of advances made during the governments of Lula and Dilma," concluding: "I, for instance, held the position of the minister of health for President Dilma. We cooperated with the Palestinian people. We opened health units in Palestine. We made many achievements in trade, culture, tourism, and in the field of educational cooperation of universities."
Eduardo Bolsonaro wears a Israeli Defense Forces T-shirt and his brother Carlos Bolsonaro wears a Mossad T-shirt
— Eduardo Bolsonaro🇧🇷 (@BolsonaroSP) May 13, 2016
Brazil, under the leadership of the leftist Workers' Party from 2003 to 2016, took a balanced attitude towards the conflict in occupied Palestine. Bolsonaro broke away from that moderate stance, and dispensed with former President Lula's support for the Palestinian cause. According to Congressman from the Brazilian Workers' Party Nilto Tatto: "The struggle for Palestine is a mission that everyone who values fraternal and equitable relationships should adopt."
But the most surprising aspect of the interview was how Eduardo Bolsonaro concluded his meeting with the Israeli ambassador. He expressed that he hopes to meet the cast of the Netflix series Fauda the next time he goes to Israel, and wants to take a selfie with actor Lior Raz, one of the protagonists of the series. Fauda (Arabic for "chaos") concerns the story of an Israeli undercover unit, the Mistaravim, whose commandos carry out missions in the occupied Palestinian territories. Congressman Tatto confirms: "Eduardo Bolsonaro knows nothing about Brazil or the history of the world. He bases his world view on the prejudices and the changing conditions."
As a Palestinian living in Brazil, I understand that many viewers around the world believe that the Netflix series Fauda presents a "real picture" of the conflict between Israel and Palestine – but it does not. The series turns the truth upside down, showing the Israeli occupation soldiers as heroes and the Palestinians as criminals. In March 2018, the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement led a campaign against the series. BDS expressed: "Fauda celebrates secret Israeli military units which are known to have carried out numerous assassinations and extrajudicial executions, murder and the brutal arrest of unarmed demonstrators, including children."
Congressman Tatto remarked to MEMO: "It is important to remember that, although Brazil elected Bolsonaro, his son's position does not represent the thinking of all Brazilians. There are millions of people who repudiate this stance and the murder of Palestinians, as well as the invasions of Palestinian territory and its economic strangulation."
I have recently watched the series and noticed the many inaccuracies that were highlighted. The final season's events revolve around a new mission inside the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated regions in the world, and one of the poorest with hundreds of thousands of people living in ramshackle refugee camps and bombed-out buildings. Palestinians in Gaza have been under an Israeli land, air, and sea blockade since 2007. The series, however, depicts life in Gaza as simple, smooth, and free without siege, war nor bombings.
With the rise of the extreme right-wing under current President Jair Bolsonaro, he has been eager to develop relations with Isreal at the expense of relations with Arabs and Palestinians. The question remains though, how can a Brazilian parliamentarian, of a country that has always been friendly to the Palestinians and Arabs, glorify heroes of a series who are professional killers of the Palestinians? What idea is he trying to convey to his people – that Palestinians are murderers and terrorists, while the occupiers of Palestine who do not stop killing the Palestinians are victims?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.