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Following Gaza from Brazil

It’s fascinating to follow the conflict in Gaza from another country; I recently observed Rodrigo Craveiro, a correspondent for the Brasilia-based Correio Braziliense, report “from” Gaza via a dozen open windows on his PC, monitoring blogs and communicating via webcam and chat with Gazans (passable Google translation here).

But if I have to read or watch another commentator talk about how wonderfully Arabs and Jews get along here in Brazil, I may boycott the local press coverage and stick to European and American sources. The latest (of at least a half-dozen I’ve seen) is an op-ed column by Ruy Castro (not available online) in today’s Folha de Sao Paulo. He reports on a recent visit to Saara, a bustling and ethnically diverse shopping district of Rio de Janeiro:

“Arab and Jewish shopkeepers fight for customers by competing with pricing and sales, but go to lunch together in one of the area’s fantastic restaurants and laugh at one another’s jokes.

It’s not that they haven’t suffered from the tragedy in the Gaza Strip. But they have known one another since they were born, and before that, their fathers were friends and brothers. Furthermore, they’re Cariocas (natives of Rio), a category that pays no mind to barriers of origin.”

But these are not Palestinians and Israelis. Arabs here are mostly descendants of 19th and early 20th century immigrants from Lebanon and Syria (and many are Christian) and the Jews came largely from Eastern Europe around the same time. So I don’t really see the point. And it should be noted that although Cariocas may pay no mind to ethnic or religious barriers, they’re not so good with the socio-economic barriers. Just try living in a slum controlled by drug traffickers and see how peaceful things are. And how often you chortle over jokes when you’re at lunch with your friends from the city’s upper class.