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Brazil’s Lula Angers Israel After Comparing War in Gaza to the Holocaust

WorldMiddle EastBrazil’s Lula Angers Israel After Comparing War in Gaza to the Holocaust

Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, drew the ire of Israeli authorities on Sunday after he compared Israel’s actions in the war against Hamas to the Holocaust, in which Nazis killed six 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,” Mr. 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 on Saturday, he said it was necessary to condemn both the Hamas attacks against Israeli civilians and “Israel’s disproportionate response.” The Gazan 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.

Mr. Lula’s statement outraged Israeli officials. The Israeli foreign minister, Israel Katz, said in a statement on social media in Hebrew that the remarks were “shameful and egregious.” He said that Brazil’s ambassador will be called in to his office on 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. Mr. 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.”

Mr. Netanyahu added in a separate statement that Mr. 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.”

Dani Dayan, the chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, also condemned Mr. Lula’s remarks, saying in a statement that it was “extremely disappointing that the Brazilian leader, a country of significant stature, would resort to distorting the Holocaust and propagating antisemitic sentiments in such a blatant manner.”

Hamas, in a statement on social media, welcomed the Brazilian president’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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