An Outrageous Comparison From Brazil’s Blinkered President

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva owes the Jewish people and the state of Israel an unreserved apology after likening Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip to Nazi Germany’s diabolical plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

Silva’s flippant and blinkered comparison, steeped in appalling ignorance and boundless maliciousness, prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz on February 19 to declare him a persona non grata.

Katz, the son of Holocaust survivors, singled out Silva for opprobrium as he and Brazil’s ambassador to Israel, Federico Meyer, toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Declaring that Israel “will not forget and …. not forgive” his outrageous remarks, Katz said, “In my name, and in the name of all Israeli citizens, tell President Lula that he is persona non grata in Israel until he retracts his statements.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, right, tours Yad Vashem with Frederico Meyer, Brazil’s ambassador to Israel

Just hours later, Meyer was recalled, while the Israeli ambassador in Brazil was reprimanded.

Katz acted appropriately and with restraint in denouncing Silva, a seasoned politician who should have known better than to glibly compare Israel’s just offensive in Gaza with Adolf Hitler’s genocidal Final Solution

Speaking to reporters in Addis Ababa, where he was attending a summit of the African Union, Silva said, “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. What’s happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people hasn’t happened at any other moment in history except one, when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

Silva made these utterly false and dishonest comments about a month after the International Court of Justice in The Hague  held a hearing to address South Africa’s baseless case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza and demanding an immediate ceasefire. This application will take years to adjudicate, but in the meantime, the court declined to order Israel to halt its offensive. However, the court acknowledged that there was “plausibility” to South Africa’s claim that Israel was in breach of parts of the Genocide Convention.

Although this contentious issue is far from resolved as far as the court and global public opinion are concerned, Silva must have been emboldened by its preliminary conclusion. And so he went off on a tangent, saying things that have no basis in fact and reality and that feed the fires of antisemitism. In light of his idiotic and mean-spirited observations, the record should be promptly set straight.

From Israel’s perspective, the war in Gaza is all about Hamas and nothing else. It is not about its Palestinian civilian population, which has been caught in the crossfire precisely because Hamas’ remorseless leadership has cynically used civilians as disposable human shields.

Israeli troops operate in the Gaza Strip

Although 29,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes since Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 Israelis and foreigners in southern Israel on October 7, Israel’s armed forces have targeted only Hamas sites and facilities, all of which are purposely embedded in residential neighborhoods. Contrary to Silva’s unfounded claim, Israel most definitely has not aimed its guns at defenceless women and children, but at heavily-armed Hamas brigades and battalions, which, though greatly diminished after four months of warfare, are still resisting Israeli advances.

The Nazis, in keeping with their vicious racist ideology and the 1942 Wannsee Conference, were bent on annihilating every last Jewish man, woman and child and completely cleansing Europe of Jews.

If Silva cannot understand these fundamental and glaring differences, he is either a fool or an ignoramus. Nor should he forget that Hamas, a proxy of Iran aligned with Hezbollah, covets Israel’s destruction and, by definition, opposes a two-state solution, which he apparently supports and promotes.

Jair Bolsonaro

Silva’s pro-Palestinian views are really not surprising. In common with leftist politicians in Latin America, he simplistically regards Israel as a “colonial settler” state. This is a position that was entirely alien and abhorrent to his right-wing predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who, while keenly supportive of Israel, reneged on his promise to move Brazil’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Long before Silva erroneously compared Israel to Nazi Germany, like-minded left-wing governments in Latin America had already denounced Israel and cozied up to Hamas. Shortly after the October 7 massacre, Bolivia severed its relations with Israel, while Colombia, Chile, Honduras and Belize recalled their ambassadors.

By way of sharp contrast, Argentina’s newly-inaugurated president, Javier Milei, a staunch right-winger, unequivocally rallied behind Israel. In his first overseas trip earlier this month, he visited Israel and reiterated his pledge to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

Argentinian President Javier Milei, left, is welcomed to Israel by Foreign Minister Israel Katz on February 6

Whether he honors that solemn promise remains to be seen, but the point to remember now is that the Left has not only abandoned Israel, but reviled it as the enemy and conflated it with the forces of evil. This is exactly what Brazil’s president did when he had the gall and the audacity to shamelessly draw a patently incorrect comparison between a Western democratic state like Israel and a brutal totalitarian state like Nazi Germany that was beyond the pale.

Silva should recant and issue a sincere apology, but it appears that he will do nothing of the kind, complicating Israel’s relationship with Brazil.