Israel-themed parade in Brazilian Carnival canceled

An Israel-themed parade planned for the annual Rio Carnaval was canceled out of concern it would spark dissent or violence.

By: Batya Jerenberg

A Brazilian samba school that had been preparing for months to present an Israeli theme at the annual Rio Carnaval festivities in February has reneged due to concern about adverse Palestinian reactions, Ynet reported Thursday.

The carnival is an extravagant production with bands of musicians and choreographed dancers wearing elaborate costumes. The event features a special Parade of the Samba Schools, each with thousands of members and its own theme for a song, dance and set of decorated floats.

The Israeli embassy in Brazil had approached several of the schools in an effort to benefit from the worldwide media coverage that this major cultural event amasses and in order to promote Israel in a fun, positive way as the last event marking the country’s 70th birthday. The Aguila de Oro school from São Paulo agreed, and the happy leaders of the city’s Jewish community got involved financially, with one major donor quickly providing $100,000 in initial support, Ynet said.

Negative reactions began reaching the Israeli consulate when the Hamas violence at the Israel-Gaza border, which began in March, garnered widespread condemnation of Israel.

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“As we had feared, the samba school started sending us messages signaling they were regretting their decision,” a consulate report to the foreign ministry said, according to Ynet. “The school’s management feared the loss of support and possible Palestinian rallies or riots that might cause the school to lose points. They eventually backed away completely.”

At the 2018 Rio Carnaval, however, more than 3,000 members of the Portela samba school safely managed to present the history of the first Jews who landed in Brazil as their “strong message against xenophobia and for peace among peoples,” as noted by Portela director Fabio Pavao.

Over a million tourists visit the South American country to enjoy the six-day celebration that precedes Lent, with dancing, public street parties, mock battles and plentiful food and alcoholic beverages. The parades attract some two billion TV viewers across the globe.