The government of Israel declared Brazil’s far-left President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva persona non grata on Monday in response to comments in which Lula compared Israel’s self-defense operations against Hamas to the Holocaust.
The designation, as per International law, bans Lula from entering Israel.
Lula, who is currently on an official tour of Africa that began last week, repeatedly condemned Israel during his visits to Egypt and Ethiopia. He particularly disparaged Israel for attempting to protect itself from the jihadist terrorist organization Hamas, responsible for the October 7 attack on Israeli civilians that killed an estimated 1,200 people.
During a press conference following his participation at the 37 African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Lula compared Israel’s actions to that of Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.
“What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has no parallel in other historical moments. In fact, it did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews,” Lula said.
The Brazilian president’s accusations drew the immediate condemnation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that Lula’s remarks “crossed a red line.” Netanyahu said Lula’s remarks constituted a “trivialization of the Holocaust and an attempt to harm the Jewish people and Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced on Monday that his government summoned the Brazilian ambassador to Israel to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial for a “protest call,” adding that Lula has been declared a persona non grata and is banned from Israel until he retracts his statements.
זימנתי הבוקר את שגריר ברזיל בישראל ליד ושם, המקום שמעיד יותר מכל על מה שעשו הנאצים והיטלר ליהודים, בהם בני משפחתי.
— ישראל כ”ץ Israel Katz (@Israel_katz) February 19, 2024
“The comparison of Brazilian President Lula between Israel’s just war against Hamas and the actions of Hitler and the Nazis who murdered six million Jews is an extremely serious antisemitic attack which desecrates the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust,” Katz stated.
“We will never forgive and never forget – in my name and in the name of the citizens of Israel – I notified President Lula that he is unwelcome in Israel until he formally apologizes and retracts his statement,” he added.
Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy addressed Lula’s designation as persona non grata during his Monday morning briefing, describing the ban on the head of state by Israel as likely unprecedented.
“There is nothing more disgraceful than the desecration of the memory of the six million Jews murdered,” Levy told reporters, “and the hostages, in an attempt to shield the perpetrators of an actual act of genocide, the Hamas death squads that burned whole families alive, incinerated them, and reduced them to human ash on October 7.”
“We will not tolerate any world leaders trying to give Hamas political or legal cover” he concluded, “and we certainly will not tolerate any world leaders attempting to shield the genocidal Hamas war criminals by desecrating the memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.”
Prior to Sunday’s remarks that resulted in his ban from Israel, Lula accused Israel of murdering “women and children” during a speech given to the League of Arab States, where he also demanded the United Nations recognize “Palestine” as a state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
“Brazil’s position is clear. There will be no peace until there is a Palestinian state within mutually agreed upon and internationally recognized borders, which include the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and East Jerusalem as capital,” Lula told the Arab League.
Lula repeated his accusations at a press conference held after his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, declaring Israel’s response to Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack as “disproportional and indiscriminate.”
“Under the pretext of defeating Hamas, they are killing women and children, something never seen in any war that I know of,” Lula said.
Lula is expected to return to Brazil from his African tour on Monday. The Brazilian government has not publicly commented on the matter at press time.
The Brazilian president is not the only far-left head of state in the region that has compared Israel to Nazi Germany following the October 7 attack. Last year, Colombian President Gustavo Petro claimed that Israel was turning Gaza into Auschwitz in a series of wild, unhinged social media posts made days after October 7.
Petro’s rants prompted Israel to suspend its security exports to Colombia — a country that, before the arrival of Petro to the presidency, had historically maintained friendly ties with Israel. Petro responded with threats to cut all ties to Israel, threatening, “you do not insult the president.”
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.