Brazil cancels $2 billion contract with Israeli security firm for 2016 Olympics

An Israeli firm had been hoping to provide security services at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. (Ricardo Stuckert/Wikimedia Commons)

Brazil’s government has excluded an Israeli “security” company from working at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro following a campaign by Palestine solidarity activists.

In October 2014, the Israeli firm International Security and Defence Systems (ISDS) announced it had won a $2.2 billion contract with the Brazilian government to coordinate security at the huge sports event. The Times of Israel described the deal as “an unprecedented achievement for Israel,” while senior figures from the company stated it had already begun work.

But on 8 April a division dealing with large events at Brazil’s justice ministry denied that ISDS had been awarded any contract.

A letter from the ministry stated: “Any contract made by Rio 2016 won’t result in compromises by the Brazilian government.” The campaign against ISDS, which was supported by some of Brazil’s labor unions, is interpreting this as an acknowledgement of its grievances.

Julio Turra, executive director of CUT, the largest workers’ union in Brazil, says in a press release: “We are glad that the government distances itself from ISDS. It would be illegal and shameful to hire a company that develops its technologies in complicity with Israeli crimes and that accumulates complaints about its participation in Central American dictatorships.”

This boycott success comes on the heels of another recent and very significant win in Brazil for activists urging boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. At the end of 2014, in response to a separate campaign, the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul canceled a contract with the Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems to develop a major aerospace research center.

Bloody past

The campaign against the ISDS contract focused on lobbying the government to cancel any contract with ISDS on the grounds that the company had close ties with the Israeli military, as well as a long and sordid history in Central and South America.

Founded in 1982 in Tel Aviv by a former colonel in the Israeli army, ISDS has provided security and “counterterrorism” training to many Central American states, including paramilitaries in Honduras and Guatemala, throughout the 1980s.

ISDS helped train and arm the Contras in Nicaragua who tried to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government. In the 1989 book, The “Terrorism” Industry, Edward Herman and Gerry O’Sullivan document how ISDS also trained and helped form anti-terrorism “squads” within the Guatemalan military to target opposition forces and grassroots organizing, while providing the military with electronic surveillance, arms, helicopters, and airplanes. Furthermore, ISDS trained Honduran death squads, including the notorious Battalion 3-16, which conducted kidnappings, killings, and torture against political dissidents.

Not done

While Palestine solidarity activists are celebrating Brazil’s decision, they are now turning their focus to the Olympics Committee, which has named ISDS as an “official supplier” for the games.

Maristela Pinheiro, a member of the Rio de Janeiro Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People stated: “There will be for sure a strong campaign against the supplier deal between ISDS and the 2016 organizing committee and we’ll keep monitoring Coesrio [the government agency responsible for the Olympics]. The games can’t be intensifying repressive practices in our country, or endorse illegal and immoral actions.”

Large sporting events, like the Olympics and the World Cup, are magnets for military and security firms that are hired to pacify, place under surveillance and remove poor and other “undesirable” segments of the population from the festivities. ISDS is just one of several Israeli and other international companies that have profited from this routine in the past.

Due to Palestine solidarity activists, the company will not be enjoying as much profit as it had hoped to reap in Brazil next year.




Thank you, Brazil. It is good to see Israel suffer some repercussions for their crimes against humanity. To continue to do business with a war criminal nation is to give cover and approval to their behavior. It is gratifying to see the BDS movement have some power to punish Israel for their war crimes against the Palestinian people.


To Maggie:

Thanks for your congratulatory words about Brazil and 2o16.

In addition to "War Crimes" and "Crimes Against Humanity"
do not fail to recall the central core of the UN and international
law (honored too often in the breach. It is in Article 2 of the
UN Charter, in part:

"1. The Organization is based on the principle of sovereign
equality of all its Members...
2. All Members shall settle their international disputes by
peaceful means....
4. All Members shall refrain in their internaional relations
from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity
or political independence of any state, or in any other manner
inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations..."

And in Article 4:(1):

"Membership in the united Nations is open to all ....peace-
loving nations states which accept the obligations contained
in the present Charter.."

Article 6 provides that "A Member of the United Nations which has
persistently violated the Principles...may be expelled from the
Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation
of the Security Council."

Which is to say, as long as the US (a ":permanent member" of the
Security Council supports the ill-deeds of Israel, such ill-deeds
will always remain protected. No questions asked by the US.

When I listen to a sports broadcast on my radio, there is often an
advertisement that such and such a company is "official" for that
specific team. What in terms of monetary advantage and obligation
is the "official" result of the "official" agreement of the committee?
What financial obligations does this mean for other participants?

Action needs to be based of specific knowledge.

----Peter Loeb. Boston, MA, USA


Precisely what war crimes has Israel or this contractor committed? How does defending yourself from attack constitute a war crime?


Are you for real? It's called genocide. Remember the nazis? One day we will be taking our children to Palestinian Holocaust Museums and if Israel still exists it will be paying reparations to the Palestinians. Check the Geneva Conventions. Israel has violated them all.


Thank you Maggie. I couldn't think of an adequate response.

Tragically millions are taught that there is nothing at all criminal about
massacres, murder, rape, home destruction etc.

Crimes against humanity and war crimes are mostly dealt with in treaties
which Israel has signed.

The crime of AGGRESSION is dealt with in the UN Charter Article 2, often
referred to as "the core of international law." (See also Articles 4 and 6).

At the Nuremburg Trials AGGRESSION was called "the supreme war crime."
But if a nation is run by a "chosen people" ("Zionists", not all Jews) none
of this applies.

During World War II Jews did not consider the Aryan race a chosen people
yet they were close collaborators with the Nazis. Eichman's show trial was
his SECOND visit to Israel. During the first he was an honored guest with
other Nazi iofficials. If the Nazis did not feel that children under l0 years were
useful, they instructed a Zionist Council ("Judenrat") to collect them all with
their lunchboxes and send them to their inevitable deaths. To protesting
Jewish Mothers, they said that if we (Council of Jewish Elders) don't do
it, they (the Nazis) will and that would probably be worse. (See for example
NAZI OCCUPATION by Isaiah Trunk, MacMillian Company, 1972 among
other sources.)

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA


Thank you, Peter. It sounds to me like your made a perfect response. :)

There is no legitimate defense for Israel's criminal behavior nor is there a legitimate defense of the USA's refusal to do the right thing and detach our tax dollars and our support and protection from Israel until the zionists join the human race and learn how to be decent human beings.


$2.2 billion is a huge sum, given that Olympics cost about $10 billion as published (London 2012: 9 billion pounds). This $2.2 figure would mean that 20% is going to an external party (country) for security. Add national costs, possibly hidden, for security (police, army) and it could be 30-40% of the costs going to security? Then the games must be organised too: build, IOC 'family' hosted (for free), civil improvements for like airports and transportation. I am not convinced this figure is right.

An other explanation is this mistake: Brazil currency, real/reais, is locally written "$" too. 1 BR$ being 0.33 US$, the contract would have been 770M USD. A bit more realistic. Also, the ISDS could have been bragging about the sum and even about a non-existant contract.

Anyway, good riddance. Brazilian people can be proud, also for exposing and using that dirty Central America connection. BDS.


Hopefully more countries and organizations will have the courage to stand up to Israel and its Apartheid Regime and Occupation of Palestine. Much respect to the Brazilians and there stand against Israels policies!

Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.