Lula “Persona Non Grata” in Israel
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva addresses African heads of state during the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 17 February 2024. EFE-EPA/MINASSE WONDU HAILU

Lula “Persona Non Grata” in Israel


Brasilia, Feb 19 (EFE).-

The Brazilian government recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv and summoned the Israeli ambassador to Brasilia after Israel declared Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva “persona non grata” for comparing the Israeli offensive in Gaza to the Holocaust.

Speaking Sunday at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Lula criticized Israel’s war in the Palestinian enclave, where more than 29,000 Gazans have died in 136 days of war.

“What is happening in Gaza is not a war, it is genocide,” Lula said, adding that such a confrontation “between a very prepared army and women and children” had never happened before in history, except “when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz summoned the Brazilian ambassador, Frederico Meyer, to the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem.

“We will neither forgive nor forget: on my behalf and on behalf of the citizens of Israel, I informed President Lula that he is persona non grata in Israel until he apologizes and retracts his words,” Katz declared.

After analyzing the situation and considering the “seriousness of the statements” made by the Israeli government, Brazil recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv for consultations and summoned Daniel Zonshine, Israel’s representative in the country.

Earlier on Monday, Paulo Pimenta, the presidency’s communications minister, said that since the beginning of the conflict, Brazil had “condemned in all forums the terrorist attacks by (the Palestinian Islamist group) Hamas” against Israel on Oct.7, in which some 1,200 people were killed and another 250 kidnapped, and which led to the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

He added that some “1.7 million Palestinians do not have access to drinking water, food or medicine” and that “the international community cannot remain silent in the face of the massacre of a people that must not suffer extermination because of the crimes of a group that must be punished for what it has done”.

Lula had used the word “genocide” to describe the Israeli offensive on other occasions.

The first was twenty days after the Hamas attack, when he stated in a public act that the question was not to determine “who fired the first or the second shot,” but to end the hostilities and take care of the civilian population.

The difference this time, according to diplomatic sources consulted by EFE, was the mention of the Holocaust and, even more, of Hitler himself, which for Netanyahu considered crossing a “red line.”

A crisis on the eve of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting

The diplomatic crisis broke out on the eve of the first meeting of G20 foreign ministers under the Brazilian presidency of the organization, which will be held on Wednesday and Thursday in Rio de Janeiro.

Before that, Lula will receive in Brasilia the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.

Brazil was one of the first countries to support the complaint filed by South Africa at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, accusing Israel of maintaining a “pattern of genocidal behavior” in Gaza.

Domestically, Lula has been harshly criticized by the ultra-right wing led by former president Jair Bolsonaro, who on Monday reproduced on his social networks a protest note published by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Some pro-Bolsonaro deputies have even announced that Lula’s statement could be grounds for an impeachment trial against the president, which is considered unlikely due to the correlation of forces in the Brazilian Congress. EFE


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