‘Shameful’ Brazilian president is trivialising the Holocaust, says Israel

Lula said the conflict in Gaza was ’not a war of soldiers against soldiers‘
Lula said the conflict in Gaza was ’not a war of soldiers against soldiers‘ - RICARDO STUCKERT/Brazilian Presidency/AFP/Getty
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Israel accused Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, of “trivialising” the Holocaust and causing offence to the Jewish people on Sunday after he likened the war against Hamas militants in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during the Second World War.

Lula told reporters in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where he was attending an African Union summit, that what was 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,” added the veteran Leftist.

“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.”

In response, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, called his 78-year-old counterpart’s comments “shameful and grave” and said his government had called in Brazil’s ambassador in protest.

Benjamin Netanyahu called Lula’s remarks an ‘attempt to harm the Jewish people and the right of Israel to defend itself’
Benjamin Netanyahu called Lula’s remarks an ‘attempt to harm the Jewish people and the right of Israel to defend itself’ - Marc Israel Sellem/JINI/Xinhua News Agency/eyevine

Lula, a prominent voice for the global south, and whose country holds the rotating presidency of the G20, has condemned Hamas’s Oct 7 attack on Israel as a “terrorist” act.

But he has since grown critical of Israel’s military campaign.

Israel’s assault on Gaza has killed at least 28,858 people, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry
Israel’s assault on Gaza has killed at least 28,858 people, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry - Israel Defense Forces/REUTERS

Mr Netanyahu, 74, called Lula’s remarks “Holocaust trivialisation and an attempt to harm the Jewish people and the right of Israel to defend itself”.

“The comparison between Israel to the Holocaust of the Nazis and Hitler is crossing a red line,” he said.

“Israel is fighting to defend itself and ensure its future until total victory and it is doing that while upholding international law.

“I have decided with foreign minister [Israel] Katz to summon the Brazilian ambassador in Israel for an immediate reproach.”

Mr Katz wrote on X, previously known as Twitter, that the meeting would take place on Monday.

Hamas’s attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Palestinians recover the body of a young girl among the rubble of a house destroyed after an Israeli air strike in southern Gaza
Palestinians recover the body of a young girl among the rubble of a house destroyed after an Israeli air strike in southern Gaza - MOHAMMED SABER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Militants also took about 250 people hostage, 130 of whom are still in Gaza, including 30 who are presumed dead, according to Israeli figures.

Israel’s assault on Gaza has killed at least 28,858 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Lula criticised Western countries’ recent decisions to halt aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, after Israel accused some of its employees of involvement in the Oct 7 attack.

Lula, who met Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister on the sidelines of the summit on Saturday, has said Brazil will increase its own contribution to the agency, and urged other countries to do the same.

He reiterated his call for a two-state solution to the conflict, with Palestine “definitively recognised as a full and sovereign state”.

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