Report. In Lula's words: '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 describes the war in Gaza, becomes persona non grata in Israel

Lula has been explicitly denouncing the ongoing “genocide” in Gaza since October. And he wasn’t the only one to do so among leaders in Latin America, from Venezuela’s Maduro to Colombia’s Petro. But recently, from Ethiopia, where he took part in the 37th African Union summit, the Brazilian president – increasingly determined to gain credibility as the leader of the global South – launched his harshest attack on the Netanyahu government, comparing the war unleashed by Israel against the Palestinian people to the Nazi Holocaust.

“What’s happening in the Gaza Strip isn’t a war, it’s a genocide. It’s not a war of soldiers against soldiers. It’s a war between a highly prepared army and women and children,” Lula said at a press conference, responding to a question about his government’s decision to send new funds to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. And then he added the most violent broadside: “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.”

If his intention was to set off an earthquake, Lula’s statement was entirely successful. Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz summoned Brazilian Ambassador Frederico Meyer to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and furiously scolded him in public, speaking of “a serious anti-Semitic attack that desecrates the memory of those who died in the Holocaust.”

“We will not forget nor forgive,” Katz added. “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.”

Brasilia promptly called Ambassador Meyer back home “for consultations.” There has been no break in diplomatic relations yet, according to Israeli Ambassador to Brazil Daniel Zohar Zonshine, but “the cord is stretched very tight,” because – as Netanyahu also railed on X – by comparing Israel’s “righteous fight” to Nazism, Lula is “crossing a red line.”

The reaction from Hamas was the polar opposite, commending the Brazilian president’s statements for being an “accurate description” of what the Palestinians are facing and revealing “the enormity of the Zionist crime committed with the open support of the Biden administration.”

His statements were applauded by both the Palestinian Arab Federation of Brazil, which called the Israeli reaction “an honor for Lula’s biography,” and by the Orthodox rabbis of the Torah Judaism group, who believe that Netanyahu is even “worse than the Nazis.”

However, the president’s statements have also had serious repercussions within Brazil. Backed into a corner by the investigation into the attempted coup on January 8, 2023, the far right has seized the opportunity to attack the president, announcing the filing of articles of impeachment on the charge of exposing the country to the risk of war.

Bolsonaro’s lawyer, Fabio Wajngarten, was also quick to react: even though his own client is living in fear that he might be sent to jail at any moment, Wajngarten has promised to unleash the powerful Evangelical Caucus against Lula.

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