Brazilian state cancels major deal with Elbit Systems in response to protests around the world

The Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul has cancelled a major collaboration deal
with Israeli military company Elbit Systems in the wake of protests over the firm’s
role in oppression of Palestinians. Brazilian social movements and trade unions
and Palestinian groups had called on authorities to cancel the deal over Elbit’s
role in the construction of Israel’s illegal apartheid Wall in the occupied West
Bank and its close relationship with the Israeli military.
 
Tarson Nuñéz, the coordinator of the international relations department of the
Rio Grande do Sul government described his government’s decision by saying:
 
“Our government has always given centrality to the promotion of peace and human 
rights and considers the demands of the social movements and important voice that
needs to be heard. Today’s announcement is a logical consequence of this.” 
Drones supplied by Elbit Systems were tested during Israel’s recent attack on Gaza
that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, and Elbit’s share price has risen since
the massacre as investors anticipated a rise in orders oftechnology that was used
for the first time during the attacks. Rio Grande do Sul governor Tarso Genro had
signed a research cooperation deal making Elbit the first Israeli military company 
to lead Brazilian military projects in April 2013. Elbit was to be provided access
to public funding and technologies produced by four local universities. Ongoing
protests and lack of federal support had weakened the project. In his open letter, 
Genro declared the memorandum of understanding to be “void of meaning”. A $17m plan 
to build amilitary satellite is among the projects cancelled by Tuesday’s
announcement. The announcement has been welcomed as a major victory for the boycott, 
divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement,a Palestinian led campaign for the South 
Africa-style international isolation of Israel. Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the
Palestinian Stop the Wall campaign, a member of the BDS NationalCommittee coalition
of organisations that leads the BDS movement, said: 

“Elbit Systems has become a symbol of Israel’s construction of an apartheid wall in
occupied Palestine and its military aggression against our people. Israel is only 
able to sustain its human rights violations because of international collaboration
including through deals such as the one that the Rio Grande do Sul government has
now cancelled.” “In the wake of Israel’s massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, we hope
that other governments will take steps to end military cooperation with Israel.” 

Brazilian organisations including the CUT trade union federation, the World March 
of Women and local student groups and political parties had all pressured the Rio 
Grande do Sul authorities to cancel the deal with Elbit Systems and even blockaded 
entrances to premises owned by Elbit subsidiary AEL Sistemas. The Palestinian
embassyand the Palestinian Federation in Brazil have repeatedly intervened with
the government. The rector of the university leading aerospace research in the 
region had declared that the university would not work with Elbit Systems on any
research that could have military research,casting the viability of the 
memorandum of understanding into doubt. Antonio Lisboa, secretary of
international relations at the CUT trade union federation, said: 
“This welcome decision of the government of Rio Grande do Sul reflects the 
growing opposition to Israel’s apartheid policies. The Brazilian government
must now cut all military ties with Israel, a state that practices state 
terrorism against Palestinians.”

In 2009, the Norwegian state pension fund divested from Elbit Systems, and
more than a dozen institutional investors have since followed this example.
Elbit factories in the UK and Australia were occupied during Israel’s recent
Gaza massacre. Governments and local authorities are increasingly taking
action against corporate complicity with Israeli violations of international 
law. At least 17 EU governments have warned businesses about the risks of 
doing business in illegal Israeli settlements. French multinational Veolia
has lost more than $20bn in contracts with local authorities over its
provision of infrastructure services to illegal Israeli settlements. Rio 
Grande do Sul had already stated to play an important role regarding the
question of Palestine when in 2012 the World Social Forum Free Palestine 
was held in Porto Alegre. Mahmoud Nawajaa,the coordinator with the
Palestinian BDS National Committee, said: 
“This decision is an important example of how the grassroots organizing of
the BDS movement can influence and change government policy. Earlier this 
week, we met under the umbrella of the UN to discuss effective measures to
coordinate policies by local governments to exclude companies that help
Israel violate international law from public contracts”. Jamal Juma’ from 
Stop the Wall added: “Today’s decision gives hope to all Palestinians 
resisting Israel’s brutal apartheid system. We thank all those movements
and activists that have made this victory for Palestinian rights possible”. 
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