Tue 11-June-2024

What do pro-Palestine student protesters at Brazilian universities want?

Tuesday 21-May-2024

As pro-Palestine protests continue at US and European universities, thousands of students at Latin America’s most prestigious university, the University of São Paulo (USP), have joined the movement against Israel’s genocide in the Gaza Strip. The Brazilian students from various faculties have set up tents in the History and Geography Building of the Faculty of Philosophy and Human Sciences, flying a giant Palestinian flag and chanting “Free Palestine” as they call for an “immediate ceasefire”.

The protests by USP students are being organized by the Student Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People of USP (ESPP-USP), as well as Brazilian student union and other popular organizations which express their support within and beyond the university campus.

The students are demanding that the university should divest from Israeli companies and those which benefit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

They also want an academic boycott of Israeli institutions with the renunciation of current academic agreements or any other ties and an end all academic relationships with Israeli institutions.

In particular, they are putting pressure on the USP’s Faculty of Philosophy and Human Sciences to suspend agreements with the University of Haifa in occupied Palestine. A petition has also been drafted demanding that Brazilian institutions, universities and the government should sever relations with Israel. As far as the students taking part in the protests are concerned, the university’s agreements with Israeli universities and organizations, such as “Israel Corner”, help to develop the technology used in the Israeli offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza.

The Israeli Federation of São Paulo has expressed its dissatisfaction with these demonstrations and sees them as hate speech against Jews. Such allegations by Israel and its supporters are entirely predictable.

One of those taking part in the protest, João Conceição, explained the students’ demands to MEMO:

“We demand the immediate cancellation of the seven academic agreements that USP has signed with Israeli universities and the Israeli Consulate in São Paulo,” said Conceição. “President Lula and the Brazilian government need to break all relations with Israel, whether diplomatic, military or commercial. The solidarity with the Palestinian people must be within and beyond the university walls, in light of the ongoing genocide.”

He pointed out that the demonstrations at USP draw attention to the fact that the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza is the result of the ongoing genocide and massacre of the Nakba for over 76 years. “We believe that breaking relations with Israel is the practical answer that can leave Israel in international isolation as a global outcast.”

According to Conceição, the governments of Latin America have done very little in real terms, because, “The majority of them have direct or indirect associations with Zionist entities, and they are committed to the Israeli and international bourgeoisie to defend what is happening today in Gaza.” He was critical of Lula’s stance. “He speaks harshly and compares what happens in Palestine to the Holocaust, but the actions on the ground are different.”

Brazilian activist and member of the country’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Fabio Bosco, said that the student demonstrations are very important to gain public support for Palestine and send a message to the Palestinian people that they are not alone in their struggle for liberation.

“The protests at American universities, for example, are very positive and are cornering the US President, Zionist Joe Biden. Furthermore, they serve as a symbol of solidarity and humanity for the entire world,” noted Bosco. “Lula da Silva acknowledged that there is an ongoing genocide in Gaza and supported South Africa’s action against Israel at the International Court of Justice, and yet he maintained diplomatic relations with the occupation state and has bought Israeli military goods.”

He suggested that the main thing that the Latin American countries can offer to Gaza is to break economic and diplomatic relations and thus isolate the “criminal” Zionist entity. “We hope that the example set by the students in São Paulo inspires students across the country and expands solidarity activities with the Palestinian people within trade unions and social movements.”

The protests at the University of São Paulo are expected to be the first of many on the USP campus and other Brazilian universities to challenge any promotion related to the Israeli apartheid regime. Palestine solidarity movements are growing in strength within Brazilian universities despite the Zionist presence in Brazil. Palestinian and Brazilian activists have in the past succeeded in forcing the cancellation of the Israeli Universities Festival. It is hoped by activists that other successes will follow.

-Eman Abusidu is MEMO’s correspondent in Brazil.

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