Welcome to Porto Alegre, tropical hub for the global BDS movement

Letter from Brazil


By Shimon Samuels and Sergio Widder, December 6, 2012
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Porto Alegre hosted this year’s World Social Forum (Photo: Johnson Matel)

Porto Alegre hosted this year’s World Social Forum (Photo: Johnson Matel)

V The World Social Forum (WSF), founded in Porto Alegre in 2001 as the anti-globalisation campaigner’s answer to the capitalist Davos World Economic Forum, originally gave a voice to the world’s marginalised and downtrodden — indigenous peoples, trafficked women and children, disaster victims.

It has now been hijacked by the Palestine National Committee of Fatah, which this year sent a large delegation.
In its manifesto is a boycott of Israel, ending the Israel-European Union Free Trade Agreement and “supporting anti-Zionist Jews everywhere”.

Last weekend’s four-day gathering included 125 workshops on campaigns aimed at wreaking the greatest harm upon Israel and, by association, its Jewish and gentile supporters.

During the 10,000-strong march through downtown Porto Alegre, a sea of banners proclaimed “Scottish Palestine Campaign to Boycott Israel”; “Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid: Boycott Batsheva”; “Quebec Coalition against Apartheid Israel”; “Intifada in Porto Alegre”; “Indict Israel for War Crimes”; and “Queers and Queens Against Israel, Vancouver”. Stands sold Hizbollah and Hamas T-shirts, and caps emblazoned with “Imam Khomeini: Israel must be Wiped Out”.

Sessions at the conference included boycott planning; judicial measures against individual Israelis for war crimes; religious campaigns to undermine Christian friends of Israel; and projects for flotillas to penetrate Israel’s maritime waters.

Although the WSF takes place in Brazil, its incitement effect is worldwide. The JNF and Teva generic pharmaceuticals were two common campaign targets. Activists also took aim at Christian evangelicals, who were to be approached with the argument that the biblical narrative should be de-Judaised. “Chosen people” and “promised land” were picked out as racist, colonial concepts, to be expunged from Christian liturgy.

Brazilian anti-Zionist Jew Nathaniel Braia summed up this year’s WSF: “The cause of humanity today is Palestine, as in the past was the struggle against Nazism and South African apartheid.” For those active in the 1960s’ anti-apartheid struggle, this is an insult. Through the WSF’s European satellite, the ESF, Porto Alegre may soon arrive at a theatre near you.

Shimon Samuels and Sergio Widder are respectively director for international relations and Latin American director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre

Last updated: 8:45pm, December 6 2012