sexta-feira, 12 de março de 2010

Lula no Haaretz

O Haaretz é, de longe, um dos melhores jornais que você pode ler na internet. Sempre que tenho um tempinho, procuro lê-lo. O jornal israelense e o espanho EL PAÍS são boas opções informativas. O inconveniente, para muitos, é de que ele publicado em inglês. Mas não desanime, faça um esforço e leia-o. Na sua edição de hoje, para desespero da Nova Direita brasileira (que ficou histérica com o fato), há uma grande matéria com o Presidente Lula. Transcrevo-a abaixo.

Brazil leader talks Mideast peace, how to be friends with both Israel and Iran
By Adar Primor
Tags: Israel news
In exclusive interview, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tells Haaretz it's time for more serious Israel-Palestinian talks.

SAO PAULO, Brazil - President Lula of Brazil, who in October will conclude his second term in office (and his last permitted by the state's constitution), is the most popular head of state in the country's history. His popularity rating stands at about 80 percent, and the universal consensus is that it's simply impossible not to like him. Even Brazilians who did not vote for him find him likable.

The reason becomes clear when Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - his full name, which no one uses - enters the room. He smiles in all directions. In addition to the two Israeli journalists present, the third guest is a reporter for ANBA news agency, run by the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce. Impartiality is the name of the game. Lula, as he is universally known, has to be loved by all. His visit to the Middle East next week will begin in Israel but will also take him to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. And now he has a problem: Who will get to ask the first question? He decides to solve this by having us shoot for evens or odds. Amusing himself, he does this four times; only after the result is overwhelmingly clear does he declare the winner: Haaretz.

Lula was one of the first leaders to host President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after Iran's blood-stained election of June 2009. Brazil was also one of only five countries to abstain from an International Atomic Energy Agency vote last November on a condemnation of Iran.
He is set to visit the Islamic Republic in May, where his hosts will repay him in kind for the red carpet he laid out for them in Brasilia last November. When asked how he'll be able to win over the Israelis, whose vantage point is related to the trauma of the Holocaust, Lula replies: "I spoke with the president of Iran and made it clear to him that he cannot go on saying that he wants Israel's liquidation, just as it is untenable for him to deny the Holocaust, which is a legacy of all humanity. I added that the fact that he has differences with Israel does not allow him to deny or ignore history."

In a way that will undoubtedly disturb those who will host him in Israel next week, Lula draws a direct association between the failure to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace and his planned visit to Tehran; between the need to ensure that Iran will not manufacture nuclear weapons and the need to resolve the Middle East conflict; and between the failed attempts at mediation led by international players, first and foremost the United States, and the need to bring in fresh new players - Brazilians, in all likelihood.

"I talked about Iran with many leaders, and particularly with those whose countries have a seat on the Security Council," he explains. "The Americans, the French, the British, the Russians and the Chinese all want to advance the Middle East peace process. But I also feel that the parties to the conflict and the people involved in the process have long since grown tired of it. So, the time has come to bring into the arena players who will be able to put forward new ideas. Those players must have access to all levels of the conflict: in Israel, in Palestine, in Iran, in Syria, in Jordan and in many other countries that are associated with this conflict. This is the only way we will be able to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, and at the same time be able to say clearly to Iran that we are against the manufacture of nuclear weapons."

'People have to look at each other'

Lula does not overlook any of the elements in this comprehensive linkage when asked about the fact that Israeli patience regarding Iran seems to have worn thin. "The leaders I spoke to believe that we must act quickly, otherwise Israel will attack Iran. I do not want Israel to attack Iran, just as I do not want Iran to attack Israel. In an orderly world, people have to learn to talk to one another." Here he seems to be alluding critically to the "proximity talks" about to get underway between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"The appropriate partners from each country have to be found, and more serious talks conducted," he continues. "The importance of talks between third- and fourth-rank officials [does not hold] even 1 percent of the importance of tete-a-tete talks between leaders. Politics is mainly contact. People have to look at each other, sense each other. A leader has to look into the eyes of his interlocutor instead of communicating with him through lower-level individuals.

" The Brazilian president says he is disappointed that all that remains of the Oslo Accords is "Nobel Prizes and photographs of people hugging each other," as well as the fact that the Annapolis conference of November 2007, in which Brazil participated, did not have any follow-up. "This gives me serious doubts: Who really wants peace in the Middle East? Who has an interest in achieving a solution and who would like the conflict to continue? The impression is that someone is constantly working here as though he has hidden enemies, people who simply do not want an agreement to be reached."

Lula describes himself as a negotiator, not an ideologue, a person who manages to get along with both Hugo Chavez and George W. Bush, with Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He says he has never read a book in his life, even though everyone admires his "supreme wisdom" and "creative mind." As a chairman of the workers union during the years of military rule in Brazil, he encountered and resolved many difficult conflicts.

"I was born into the politics of dialogue, I became president of this country through dialogue and I have conducted my entire presidency by means of dialogue. I believe that through dialogue we will succeed in solving all the conflicts which today appear to be unsolvable," he says.

He is well aware that he will be regarded as "naive" by his Israeli interlocutors. He is also familiar with the counter-rhetoric of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - who likens Ahmadinejad to Hitler, Iran to the Nazi regime and the world of 2010 to that of 1938. Lula's assertive response is likely to surprise even those familiar with his arguments: "Anyone who compares Ahmadinejad and modern-day Iran to Hitler and the Nazis is having the same kind of radicalism of which Iran is being accused. Anyone who takes that line is not contributing in the least to the peace process which we want to create for the sake of the future. You cannot do politics with hate and resentment. Anyone who wants to do politics with hate and resentment should get out of politics. Nobody can rule a country through the liver. You have to rule a country with your head and your heart. Other than that, it's best to stay somewhere else other than in politics."

Lula wears a blue suit with a Brazilian flag pinned to its lapel. After each question he takes out a small pair of glasses, places them on the edge of his nose and jots down a few points. He has a particularly husky bass voice; when he whispers, every syllable can still be heard in the big hall.

"My personal thesis is that we must not allow what happened in Iraq to happen in Iran," he says. "Accordingly, before sanctions of any kind are imposed, we must make every effort to rebuild the peace in the Middle East. That is what is behind my visit to Israel, Palestine and Jordan - and that is what will also take me on a visit to Iran later. After all, the Middle East conflict is not bilateral and does not pertain only to Israel and Palestine. There are other interests in the Middle East, interests which must be represented so that we can find a solution. Iran is part of all this, and therefore someone must talk to them."

Harmony in diversity

The atmosphere in Sao Paulo's Albert Einstein Hospital is somewhat despondent. Built in the mid-1970s, this vast medical institution, which dominates a hill in the prestigious Morumbi district, is considered the largest and most advanced medical center - not only in Brazil but in all of Latin America. The city's Jewish community (80,000 strong, out of 120,000 in the entire country) regards the hospital as its flagship. The institution operates on a nonprofit basis and its every fiber bespeaks giving: Giving to the country that absorbed the members of the community, and giving above all to its downtrodden, many of whom live just a stone's throw from the luxurious villas of Morumbi.

About 80,000 people live in the Paraisopolis favela (shantytown), one of about 500 favelas within a 10-kilometer radius of the hospital. The garbage is piled up on both sides of the streets, the homes are crumbling and sewage flows openly in the streets. Four hundred volunteers from the hospital are working to transform Paraisopolis into a place that will better fit the meaning of its name ("city of paradise"). Hospital staff recently opened a clinic here, and there is an old-age home, enrichment and learning groups, a library, sports facilities and an auditorium. The volunteers distribute condoms and give advice to pregnant girls. There's a colorful cardboard box into which people are asked "to throw all the curse words" they customarily utter every day.

In November 2009, the Jewish community was in an uproar when Lula deliberately chose not to invite its president, Claudio Lottenberg, to a luncheon in honor of a visiting President Shimon Peres. The reason: an article by Lottenberg attacking Lula that had been published in Brazil's largest newspaper, Folha de Sao Paulo.

Now, on the eve of Lula's visit to Israel, the community is playing down the incident. Lottenberg himself says he has "very close relations" with the president. "He makes a point of visiting the community every year on Holocaust Day and on Rosh Hashanah. All told, we have held 22 cordial meetings with him." Lottenberg adds that "Lula is an important rising player in the international arena, and Israel should take account of this. It is important for Israel to have partners and allies besides the United States."

In separate conversations, Brazil's ambassador to Israel, Pedro Motta Pinto Coelho, and his Israeli counterpart in Brasilia, Giora Becher, note that since Emperor Dom Pedro II visited in 1876, no Brazilian head of state has been to the Holy Land. Lula will be the first president to visit. The ambassadors note the "significant improvement" in economic and political relations between the two countries during Lula's term in office, demonstrated by increased cooperation and many visits on the part of high-ranking officials from both sides.

Lula's ambition to make a deep imprint in the Middle East goes beyond his country's international status, to what he describes proudly as "a long Brazilian history of peace and a life of brotherhood in a region of diverse cultures. More than 120,000 Jews live here in full harmony with 10 million Arabs. It would seem that people can learn from us." Brazil terms itself "the world's largest Lebanese country" (some six million of Brazil's Arabs are of Lebanese origin), "the second-largest African country in the world" (after Nigeria), and also the second-largest Italian and Japanese countries. It is a huge blend of peoples and cultures that do not know the meaning of friction.

Message of unity

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone in Rio de Janeiro who hasn't heard of Saara Street, where Jews and Arabs sell clothing, toys and other items side by side. Whenever tension in the Middle East rises, local television crews show up to film the Brazilian version of coexistence. "All Brazilians are brothers," they say - hence their ability, in their view, to bring brotherhood to all other nations.

These days, local TV stations are broadcasting a commercial produced by Bank Itau, which sponsors the Brazilian national soccer team. The camera zooms in on a bustling market, obviously in the Old City of Jerusalem. A 7- or 8-year-old boy is dribbling a soccer ball. He has sidelocks. He dribbles and dribbles until he loses control of the ball, which hits a sack of corn belonging to Arabs and knocks it over. Standing next to the fallen sack is a another boy. An Arab, of course. He looks at the Jew. Everyone falls silent. The viewers are tense, waiting for war to break out. But then the two boys discover they are both wearing the yellow T-shirt of the Brazilian national team. The Arab boy picks up the ball, bounces it and gives it back to the Jewish kid. Then they pass it back and forth. The slogan flashes on the screen: "Itau - uniting cultures through soccer." Cut.

It's the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The same friendship that Lula wants to bring with him on his visit. The same message, naive or not, that he wants to imbue in the conflicted nations.

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