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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Brazil’s president angers Israel after comparing war in Gaza to the Holocaust

By Ephrat Livni

Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, drew the ire of Israeli authorities Sunday after he compared Israel’s actions in the war against Hamas to the Holocaust, in which Nazis killed 6 million Jews in a systematic roundup in Europe during World War II.

“What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has no parallel in other historical moments,” Lula told reporters during the 37th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. But, he then added, “it did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

In the summit’s opening speech Saturday, he said it was necessary to condemn both the Hamas attacks against Israeli civilians and “Israel’s disproportionate response.” The Gaza Health Ministry says that more than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s invasion of Gaza following the Hamas-led Oct. 7 strike on Israel, which killed more than 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

Lula’s statement outraged Israeli officials. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement on social media in Hebrew that the remarks were “shameful and egregious.” He said Brazil’s ambassador will be called in to his office Monday for a “reprimand,” adding that “no one will harm Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel echoed those sentiments in his own social media post. Netanyahu accused Brazil’s president of “trivializing the Holocaust and trying to harm the Jewish people and Israel’s right to defend itself” and said that “comparing Israel to the Nazi Holocaust and Hitler is crossing a red line.”

Netanyahu added in a separate statement that Lula “has disgraced the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and demonized the Jewish state like the most virulent anti-Semite.”

Hamas, in a statement on social media, welcomed Lula’s comments and expressed appreciation for the comparison between the Holocaust and the current fighting in Gaza.

Brazil’s president initially condemned the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack but has since been critical of Israel’s response. In November, as he welcomed a flight with about 30 people who made it out of Gaza through Egypt with the help of the Brazilian government, he condemned the war’s impact on civilians, saying, “I have never seen such brutal, inhumane violence against innocent people.”

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