In rare public event, Israel rebukes Brazilian diplomat, declares president unwelcome

Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Brazilian Ambassador Frederico Meyer at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, Feb. 19, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

(JNS) — Foreign Minister Israel Katz declared Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva persona non grata on Feb. 19 over his comparison of Israel’s war against Hamas to the Holocaust.

Katz, the son of Holocaust survivors, told Brazil’s Ambassador Federico Mayer during a hastily arranged tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem that Israel “will not forget and we will not forgive” until the president expresses contrition for his words.

“I want to tell you here that the remarks made by President Lula when he compared the just war of the State of Israel against Hamas which murdered and massacred Jews and Hitler and the Nazis are an utter disgrace, and a severe antisemitic attack on the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” Katz told the ashen-faced ambassador at the Holocaust Memorial.

“In my name, and in the name of all Israeli citizens, tell President Lula that we will not forgive him and that he is persona non grata in Israel until he retracts his statements and apologizes.”

The ambassador received a stern reprimand at the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

“What’s happening in the Gaza Strip isn’t a war, it’s a genocide,” Lula told reporters on Feb. 18 in Ethiopia, where he is attending an African Union conference.

“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,” added the far-left president.

Hamas terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 250 others hostage during the Oct. 7 massacre that triggered the war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has accused Lula of being a “virulent antisemite,” told visiting American Jewish leaders on Sunday that the Brazilian leader had shamefully disgraced the memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and vilified the Jewish state, and that the remark “crosses a red line.”

“The words of the president of Brazil are shameful and alarming. This is about trivializing the Holocaust and trying to harm the Jewish people and Israel’s right to defend itself,” Netanyahu’s office said.

“Israel fights for its defense and securing its future until complete victory and it does so while upholding international law,” the premier stated.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Lula “supports a genocidal terrorist organization—Hamas—and in doing so brings great shame to his people, and violates the values of the free world.”

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir noted that while Lula’s words are “despicable,” they are “not surprising at all when it comes to a corrupt president, a passionate supporter of the [anti-Israel] BDS movement, whom Hamas regards as a good friend.”

Lula has been highly critical of Israel, slamming late last year what he called “the insanity of the prime minister of Israel [in] wanting to destroy the Gaza Strip but forgetting that there aren’t just Hamas soldiers there but also women and children who are the big victims of this war.”

Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia have in recent years elected far-left leaders.

In November, Bolivia announced it was severing diplomatic relations with the Jewish state over the war against Hamas, while Chile and Colombia have recalled their ambassadors.