Brazil–Israel relations refers to the bilateral relations between the Federative Republic of Brazil and the State of Israel. Brazil has an embassy in Tel Aviv and an honorary consulate in Haifa. Israel has an embassy in Brasília and a consulate-general in São Paulo. Brazil and Israel maintains close political and military ties. The two nations enjoy a degree of arms cooperation. Brazil is a full member state of Israel Allies Caucus, a political advocacy organization that mobilizes pro-Israel parliamentarians in governments worldwide.
Brazil has the 9th largest Jewish community in the world and the 2nd largest in Latin America, about 107,329 by 2010, according to the IBGE census. The Jewish Confederation of Brazil (CONIB) estimates that there are more than 120,000 Jews in Brazil. Around 20,000 Brazilians live in Israel, most of them being Brazilian Jews.
Support for the Jewish people during World War II
In the early stages of World War II, Brazil took part in the first three consultative meetings of the Ministers of External Relations of the American Republics which worked out the recommendation for the collective severance of diplomatic relations with the Axis Powers. Brazil announced, in the 1942 Rio conference, that had cut all diplomatic ties with Nazi Germany, thereby siding with Allied Powers. Eventually most South American states did the same, with the exception of Argentina and Chile.
During Osvaldo Aranha's time as Minister for External Relations, from 1938 to 1944, many Jews were granted visas to Brazil. In 1939, Jews were granted 4,601 permanent and temporary resident visas to Brazil. In that year, 9% of all permanent residency visas and 14% of temporary Brazilian visas were emitted to people of Jewish origin. In 1940, 2,500 Jewish immigrants were given visas to Brazil.
Albert Einstein asked Osvaldo Aranha for help in obtaining a visa for his friend, German Jew Helene Fabian-Katz. Einstein had previously appealed to the United States government for help, but the US denied Fabian-Katz a visa. Helene Fabian-Katz was granted a visa to Brazil and joined her brother, who was already living in São Paulo.
Nowadays Brazil has the 9th largest Jewish community in the world, about 107,329 by 2010 according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). The Jewish Confederation of Brazil (CONIB) estimates that there are more than 120,000 Jews in Brazil.
Role in the establishment of the State of Israel
Brazil played a large role in the establishment of the State of Israel. Brazil held the Presidency office of the United Nations General Assembly in 1947, which proclaimed the Partition Plan for Palestine. Ambassador Osvaldo Aranha, then head of the Brazilian delegation to the U.N., supported and heavily lobbied for the partition of Palestine toward the creation of the State of Israel. Today, streets in Israeli cities such as Beer-Sheva and Ramat-Gan, and a square in Jerusalem are named after Aranha. In 2007, a street in Tel Aviv was named in his honor at a ceremony attended by his relatives and Brazil's ambassador to Israel.
Brazil was also one of the first countries to recognize the State of Israel, on 7 February 1949, less than one year after Israeli Declaration of Independence. The first Israeli embassy was opened in 1955 in Rio de Janeiro, then capital of Brazil, with David Shaltiel as the first ambassador.
Brazil is a full member state of Israel Allies Caucus, a political advocacy organization that mobilizes pro-Israel parliamentarians in governments worldwide. Federal Deputy Fátima Pelaes, a representative for the state of Amapá in the Brazilian Parliament, serves as the Co-Chair for the Brazil Israel Allies Caucus.
Brazil stands alongside Israel in the fight against Antisemitism. Brazil strictly condemns Antisemitism, and such act is an explicit violation of the law. According to Brazilian penal code it is illegal to write, edit, publish, or sell literature that promotes Antisemitism or racism. The law provides penalties of up to five years in prison for crimes of racism or religious intolerance and enables courts to fine or imprison for two to five years anyone who displays, distributes, or broadcasts Antisemitic or racist material, although Antisemitism in Brazil remains rare. Also in 1989, the Brazilian Senate passed a law prohibiting the manufacture, trade and distribution of swastikas for the purpose of disseminating Nazism. Anyone who breaks that law is liable to serve a prison term from between two and five years. (Law no. 7716 of 5 January 1989)
The growing political relations between the two countries over the years, are based on a history of friendship and cooperation. In recent years, several Israeli Ministers have been to Brazil, in particular the Ministers of agriculture, public security, education, diaspora and public diplomacy, and trade. On the Brazilian side, Israel was visited by the minister of Education (2006), the President of the Central Bank, the Minister of Environment, the Minister of National Integration (2007), the Secretary for Women Policies, the Secretary for Strategic Affairs (2008), the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Tourism and the Head of the Institutional Security Cabinet (2010). The Minister of Trade, Industry and development accompanied the former President in March 2010. Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Celso Amorim visited Israel five times between 2005 and 2010.
In July 2014 Brazil condemned "the disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip" and recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv. Israel called Brazil a "diplomatic dwarf that creates problems rather than contributes to solutions," and compared the proportionality of the death toll to Brazil's defeat at the 2014 World Cup. In August, 2014 President of Israel Reuven Rivlin apologized to the President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff for these statements, which he said did not represent the feelings of the Israeli population.
Israeli President Zalman Shazar scheduled a seven days state visit to Brazil in 1966. From July 18 to July 25, Israel's President was the official guest of President Castello Branco. In honor of the Israeli President, a bill calling upon the Brazilian Government to grant honorary citizenship to President Shazar was introduced on May 23, 1966 in the Chamber of Deputies, at Brasilia. The bill in the Federal legislature was introduced by Deputy Cunha Bueno. Also the Brazilian Post Office Department announced on June 1, 1966 that it will issue a special postage stamp. The postage stamp carried a portrait of Mr. Shazar.
Although Juscelino Kubitschek, President of Brazil between 1956 and 1961, visited Israel after his tenure, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was the first Brazilian president to visit Israel while in office, in 2010.
In December 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli head-of-government to visit Brazil. During his visit, he met with Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro and discussed the possible move of Brazil's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In March 2019, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visited Israel, several agreements were signed, and a business office of the Brazilian government was opened in Jerusalem.
Brazil is a key buyer of Israeli weapons and military technology. In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts signed with Israeli manufacturer Elbit since 2000, the Brazilian Air Force signed a $90 million, five-year lease for 12 Kfir aircraft, and Rafael-manufactured Derby missiles were purchased in 2006. Most recently, Israel Aircraft Industries signed a $350 million contract in November 2009 to supply drones to the Brazilian police - the largest such deal ever between Israel and Brazil.
In 2011, the Federative Republic of Brazil awarded a medal to the Head of the Israeli International Military Cooperation Department of the Planning Directorate, Col. Hanny Caspi, for her peace-making efforts. The medal was given to Col. Caspi during a ceremony at the Brazilian Embassy in Tel Aviv, to honor her contribution in promoting the security cooperation between the Israel Defense Forces and the Brazilian Army. The Brazilian Ambassador to Israel, Maria Alicia Bregner also mentioned that she is excited that the head of the department is a woman. Col. Caspi is only the fourth Israeli officer to receive the medal, which is signed by the General of the Brazilian Ground Forces, and is considered as a gesture of respect and appreciation.
In December 2007, a Free Trade Zone Agreement between Israel and Mercosur was signed, Brazil being the largest partner of Israel in Latin America. Israel was the first extra-regional partner to set an agreement of this type with the economic bloc. The agreement aims to open the market of goods trade, rules of origin, safekeeping, cooperation in technical and sanitary norms, technological and technical cooperation and customs cooperation.
The president of the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo, Paulo Skaf said during a 2010 conference in Jerusalem that Brazil will triple trade with Israel by 2015. The conference was attended by Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Israeli President Shimon Peres and a group of Brazilian and Israeli business leaders.
In the context of tourism, 60,000 Brazilians visited Israel in 2012. The number is 20% higher than it was in 2011. Due to that growth, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism aims to bring 140,000 Brazilians to Israel in 2014. The basic strategies are the expansion of the Representative Office of the Ministry of Tourism in Brazil and the facilitation route between Brazil and Israel, with the Israeli airline El Al beginning its operations in the Brazil.
Cultural and technical cooperation
Rio de Janeiro is a sister city with Haifa, Tel Aviv (since 2006), and Ramat Gan (since 2010). São Paulo and Tel Aviv are sister cities since 2004. There is an important Jewish community in São Paulo. According to Raphael Singer, an Israeli diplomat in Brasília, around 60,000 Jews live in São Paulo.
On October 25, 2013 the Israeli foreign ministry stated that Israel will team up with Brazil's Jewish community to deliver medical aid to Africa. The aid project is scheduled to begin in January 2014 in Guinea Bissau and is headed by Claudio Lottenberg, the head of the Confederação Israelita do Brasil (CONIB), an umbrella group of Brazilian Jewry.
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