Brazil recalls ambassador to Israel in row over Lula’s Gaza comments

Israel says Brazilian president is not welcome in the country after he compared Israel’s war on Gaza to the Holocaust.

Destroyed buildings stand in the Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel [File: Leo Correa/AP Photo]

Brazil has recalled its ambassador to Israel, and Israel says Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is not welcome in the country in a diplomatic rift after Lula compared Israel’s military campaign in Gaza to the Holocaust.

“What’s happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people hasn’t happened at any other moment in history. Actually, it has happened: when Hitler decided to kill the Jews,” Lula said on Sunday.

During World War II, the Nazis systematically killed six million Jewish people.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Lula’s comments as “disgraceful and grave”.

On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced that Lula is not welcome in the Middle Eastern country until he takes back his comments.

“We will not forget nor forgive. It is a serious anti-Semitic attack. In my name and the name of the citizens of Israel, tell President Lula that he is persona non grata in Israel until he takes it back,” Katz told Brazil’s ambassador, according to a statement from Katz’s office.

A close up of Brazilian President Lula da Silva against the Brazilian flag.
Israel says Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is not welcome in the country {file: Adriano Machado/Reuters]

In response, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would summon Israel’s ambassador to Brazil, Daniel Zonshine, for a meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

“He [Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira] also recalled the Brazilian ambassador in Tel Aviv, Frederico Meyer, for consultations. He will depart for Brazil tomorrow,” the Foreign Ministry added on Monday.

Meanwhile, Lula, 78, also faced backlash at home over his statements on Sunday, which came during a press conference on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

The Brazil-Israel Institute called his comments “vulgar” and warned they risk “fuelling anti-Semitism”.

Lula condemned the Hamas-led October 7 attacks on southern Israel as a “terrorist” act the day it happened, and he has since grown vocally critical of Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza.

Source: News Agencies