Last year, Brasilia rejected Jerusalem’s newly appointed ambassador, Dani Dayan. The decision, made by the government of Dilma Rousseff of the Workers party, marked an increasingly anti-Israel mood among the Brazilian left. Rousseff’s recent impeachment has brought into power a centrist coalition, better disposed to the Jewish state; but André Lajst cautions against excessive optimism:
This hostility toward Israel has largely been the result of political changes in Brazil itself. In 2002, the left-wing Workers party rose to power. . . . [L]ike much of the Latin American left, it has been greatly influenced by radical Palestinians and their supporters. And it is not alone. Anti-Israel groups have managed to find an intellectual, academic, and political home within many left-wing social and political movements in Brazil. . . .
This is, of course, a reflection of international trends, particularly in Western Europe. But there is a major difference: due to the party’s political success, individuals and groups who embrace the anti-Israel narrative have become influential activists, academics, intellectuals, and government officials, particularly in the educational system. Taking advantage of universities and institutions with high social visibility and the capacity to mold public opinion, they regularly engage in anti-Israel propaganda. The result is catastrophic for Israel’s image. . . .
Throughout its history, Brazil has fostered massive economic inequality, with a poverty-stricken majority and a super-wealthy elite. This has led many to see the world as a Manichean struggle between the evil rich and the virtuous poor. Due to the stereotype of the Jews as wealthy, this can quickly lead to viewing the Jews as a force for evil. This ideology [also involves] the identification of the United States with the evil rich. Since Israel is a strong ally of the U.S., it can lead to the conclusion that “the best friend of my enemy is my enemy as well.” . . .
[The rise to power of a friendlier government bodes well] for Israel, but has also created a backlash from the current political opposition, which is against Rousseff’s impeachment. Unfortunately, political beliefs in Brazil are often a zero-sum game. If Israel becomes associated with the right-wing parties, the left feels it must reject it, regardless of the facts. A left- or right-wing voter adopts his party’s agenda wholesale. If this includes being against Israel, a voter will accept this without question.
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