Colombia, Bolivia back Brazil’s Lula in Israel row over Gaza war comments

South American allies voice ‘solidarity’ with Brazil after Israel lambasts Lula for comparing war on Gaza with Holocaust.

Brazil's Lula
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Lula has compared Israel’s military campaign in Gaza with the Holocaust [File: Adriano Machado/Reuters]

Colombia and Bolivia are backing Brazil as its diplomatic row with Israel escalated after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, comparing its actions with the Holocaust.

Gustavo Petro and Luis Arce, the presidents of Colombia and Bolivia respectively, both expressed “solidarity” with Lula on Tuesday, after he was slammed by Israel for calling its war on Gaza a “genocide” against Palestinians and compared it with Adolf Hitler’s campaign to exterminate the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

“In Gaza there is a genocide and thousands of children, women and elderly civilians are cowardly murdered,” Petro said on X. “Lula has only spoken the truth and the truth is defended or barbarism will annihilate us. The entire region must unite to immediately end the violence in Palestine.”

Arce also took to social media to link arms with Lula. “History will not forgive those who are indifferent to this barbarity,” he wrote. The Brazilian president, he said, had told the truth about the genocide being committed against the “brave Palestinian people”.

The row blew up on Sunday, tensions deepening when Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz labelled Lula’s comments “promiscuous, delusional”, declaring him “persona non grata” in Israel. “It’s not too late to learn history and apologize,” he wrote on X.

In response, Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira described Katz’s comments as “outrageous” and “unacceptable in their nature and lying in their content”.

“For a foreign ministry to address a head of state from a friendly country in this way is unusual and revolting,” he told reporters at the G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The episode, he said on Tuesday, was “a shameful page in the history of Israel’s diplomacy”.

Diplomatic retaliation

In the aftermath of Lula’s comments, Katz summoned Brazil’s ambassador Frederico Meyer for a meeting on Monday at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre in Jerusalem.

In a tit-for-tat move, the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs then summoned the Israeli ambassador to Brazil, Daniel Zonshinem, and recalled Meyer from Tel Aviv for consultations.

Veteran leftist Lula, 78, is a prominent voice for the Global South and his country holds the rotating presidency of the G20.

While he had initially described the Hamas-led attack on October 7 as a “terrorist” act, he has since grown vocally critical of Israel’s response.

His comments came as Brazil prepares to host a G20 foreign ministers’ meeting on Wednesday and Thursday, with top diplomats including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gathering in Rio de Janeiro.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies