Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Cosme Felippsen’s nephew was 17 years previous when he was killed by Brazil’s army police in a Rio de Janeiro alley nicknamed the Gaza Strip.
“Nearly each favela in Rio has an space residents name Gaza,” Felippsen stated, pointing to the bullet holes alongside the alley partitions. Residents have used the title for at the least 15 years, he added. “It designates the realm the place a lot of the gunfire is concentrated at any given time.”
The neighbourhood the place Felippsen’s nephew, José Vieira, died in 2017 is known as Morro da Providência. It’s one among a whole bunch of impoverished communities — or favelas — strewn throughout the town.
Activists and residents say the violence they’ve seen within the favelas has given them distinctive perception into the city warfare at the moment unfolding in Gaza, a Palestinian territory below Israeli siege. And the parallels they understand are motivating them to take motion.
“Militarisation, armed teams executing inhabitants — many issues that occur in Palestine additionally occur within the favelas of Rio de Janeiro,” stated Felippsen, a neighborhood politician and tour information who specialises in Black historical past.
Leftist teams, a few of whom have ties to Brazil’s favelas, have organised protests throughout the nation for the reason that Israel-Hamas battle started on October 7.
Within the weeks since, greater than 13,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed amid an Israeli bombing marketing campaign and a blockade that lower off important provides to the densely populated territory. About 1,200 Israelis had been killed within the Hamas assaults that began the battle.
UN experts have warned that the Palestinian individuals are at “grave danger of genocide”.
Adriana Odara Martins, who lives within the Baixada Fluminense neighbourhood on the outskirts of Rio, was among the many protesters calling for a ceasefire in entrance of the native United States consulate in October.
Her group, she defined, was regularly the goal of police operations, and he or she discovered her experiences mirrored in current media protection of Gaza.
“We’re right here in solidarity as a result of we now have empathy. We all know what it’s wish to reside below violence,” stated Martins, who’s a part of the feminist group Articulation of Brazilian Girls and a coordinator for the Unified Black Motion.
Police in Brazil killed greater than 6,400 folks final yr, 83 p.c of them Black, in response to the nonprofit Brazilian Public Safety Discussion board.
The violence is especially acute within the favelas, tightly packed urban environments the place a majority of residents are Black or combined race.
Palestinians and residents of favelas are generally perceived as “racially subaltern populations”, stated Bruno Huberman, a professor of worldwide relations on the Pontifical Catholic College of Sao Paulo.
They share a historical past of systematic repression, expulsion from their properties, confinement in segregated areas, subjugation and exploitation, he advised Al Jazeera.
“Each populations are subjected to infinite wars: the Palestinians to the battle on terror and the favela populations to the battle on medication,” Huberman stated.
Whereas hesitant to match the violence afflicting the 2 teams, Fatima Ouassak, a French political scientist, writer and activist, stated she too had observed similarities in how favela residents and Palestinians had been handled of their respective homelands.
“These populations are made to really feel illegitimate the place they reside, as in the event that they weren’t at residence or welcome the place they’re,” she advised Al Jazeera. This sense, Ouassak added, prolonged to different Arab and African diaspora communities in locations like France.
The perceived similarities have led some social actions within the favelas to determine explicitly with the Palestinian wrestle.
Yearly since 2016, activists in Rio organise “Black July”, an occasion that brings collectively populations going through racism and militarisation for actions and discussions.
The difficulty of Palestinian rights typically options in these occasions. This yr’s Black July included a webinar from two Brazilian activists — Gizele Martins and Thais Siqueira — who had not too long ago returned from a visit to the occupied West Bank.
“I believed we had been the one ones struggling within the favelas,” Martins stated in the course of the webinar. A resident of Rio’s Maré favela, she first visited the West Financial institution in 2017. “As quickly as I acquired there, I noticed that all the pieces was very related — however rather more tense.”
One of many similarities she identified was the security wall Israel constructed by means of Palestinian communities within the West Financial institution. In August, Rio de Janeiro state Governor Claudio Castro introduced the development of a wall bordering sure favelas, additionally within the title of safety.
“Wall of disgrace! Rio’s apartheid wall,” Martins stated on Instagram after the announcement, evoking the West Financial institution barrier.
However the identification between the 2 teams has its limits. Mike, a pro-Palestinian protester who declined to offer his surname, stated there was extra discuss in assist of Israel than Palestine within the favela the place he resides, Barreira do Vasco.
“I generally really feel a bit alone in backing Palestine,” Mike advised Al Jazeera on the demonstration in entrance of the US consulate in Rio de Janeiro.
In recent times, favelas have seen an increase in evangelical Christianity, a spiritual motion that identifies strongly with Israel.
Although Brazil has the biggest Catholic inhabitants on the earth, evangelicalism is believed to be its fastest-growing non secular group. Roughly 30 p.c of the inhabitants identifies as evangelical.
Favelas specifically are seen as hotbeds for the church’s progress, as non secular leaders attain out to impoverished residents with social providers like job alternatives and training.
Guilherme Casarões, a political scientist on the Getulio Vargas Basis, a assume tank and college, defined that evangelicals usually tend to sympathise with Israel resulting from their view that the nation is a holy place to be protected.
“The concept is that Jesus Christ will solely return to Earth to avoid wasting humanity when the folks of Jerusalem have transformed to his phrase,” Casarões stated.
That view, Casarões added, has translated into “unconditional alignment with Israel” politically.
“Even when there may be some criticism of the killing of harmless Palestinians in Gaza, the predominant view is that Israel has the proper to defend itself on this battle between good and evil,” he stated.
That viewpoint clashes with the stance of present left-wing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Over the previous month, Lula has been sharply vital of Israel’s relentless bombardment of the Gaza Strip, denouncing the Palestinian bloodshed.
“This isn’t a battle. This can be a genocide,” Lula advised journalists on the Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia on October 25. He additionally used a social media handle on Tuesday to name Israel’s actions “equal to terrorism”.
In his earlier two phrases in workplace, from 2003 to 2010, Lula was likewise outspoken in his defence of Palestinian rights.
Latin America’s greatest democracy has for many years referred to as for a two-state resolution to the battle, one that may enable the creation of a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel.
In 2010, Lula took a step in the direction of that purpose, recognising Palestine as an impartial state based mostly on 1967 borders. The Israeli authorities responded with a press release expressing its “disappointment and disappointment” concerning the resolution.
Consultants say Lula’s rhetoric echoes that of different left-leaning Latin American leaders. Bolivia lower official ties with Israel over the battle in Gaza, whereas Chile and Colombia have recalled their ambassadors in Tel Aviv for consultations.
Against this, right-wing Latin American leaders have sympathized extra brazenly with Israel, in response to Casarões. In addition they are likely to take pleasure in extra evangelical assist.
Former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro stopped in need of altering Brazil’s longstanding assist of the two-state resolution, although he did make public statements denying Palestine was a rustic.
When Bolsonaro and Lula went face to face within the 2022 presidential race, the favela vote turned key, given how slender the margins between the 2 leaders had been.
Residents within the favelas represent a significant voting bloc. An estimated 16 million folks reside in poorly resourced city areas like favelas, and in Rio de Janeiro alone, at the least 1 / 4 of the inhabitants lives in areas thought-about favelas.
Lula in the end edged out Bolsonaro within the remaining vote. Within the weeks earlier than the election, the nonprofit G10 Favelas/Favela Diz discovered that Lula held a seven-point lead over Bolsonaro amongst favela voters, with 38 p.c assist to the far-right chief’s 31 p.c.
Whether or not Lula’s overseas coverage stance will have an effect on that assist stays to be seen. However Huberman, the worldwide relations professor, stated Brazil’s economic system and high quality of life are the most important elements to sway the vote.
Nonetheless, some Palestinian rights supporters want to see Lula do extra to handle the continuing battle.
Fransergio Goulart, a coordinator for the Proper to Reminiscence and Racial Justice Initiative in Rio de Janeiro, stated he noticed Lula’s reputation lowering amongst his fellow activists. They felt the left-wing president was not taking a powerful sufficient stance towards Israel’s army offensive.
“Lula ought to place himself towards Israel, and he hasn’t finished that,” Goulart stated.
A part of the difficulty is Brazil’s ongoing ties to Israel’s defence industry. Brazil has lengthy bought weaponry and armoured autos from Israel to bolster its personal safety capabilities.
In 2013, for example, the state of Rio de Janeiro signed an settlement with the Israeli firm International Protect to purchase armoured autos for its army police, native newspaper Estadão reported on the time.
And in October, Sao Paulo’s army police showcased 7.62mm calibre Gentle Negev machine weapons purchased from Israel Weapon Industries Ltd in 2020, the native information group Ponte reported.
This sort of weaponry has been used within the favelas within the title of combating gang violence.
“For years, army applied sciences tested on Palestinians have been utilized in Brazil,” Goulart wrote in an article in March, referencing efforts to crack down on gangs within the favelas forward of main sporting occasions.
Huberman famous that ties between Israel and Brazil have truly deepened when Lula’s Employees’ Social gathering was in energy, significantly within the space of safety cooperation.
Final month, for example, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies — with the backing of the Employees’ Social gathering — voted to resume three cooperation agreements with Israel, together with one to fight organised crime.
This creates a contradiction, Huberman stated, between Lula’s stance on Israel’s army offensives and his embrace of Israel as a home safety accomplice.
“Palestinians have requested for an finish to army relations [between Brazil and Israel],” Huberman stated, “as a result of there isn’t a level in Brazil asking for peace however shopping for Israeli weapons that maintain the occupation.”