Holocaust comments put Lula in a bind. Both externally and internally

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, on Monday accused Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of “a serious anti-Semitic attack” and declared him an unwelcome person after Lula compared Israel’s recent operations in Gaza to the Holocaust.

At the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa on Sunday, Lula said that “what is happening in the Gaza Strip and with the Palestinian people” has a single precedent: “when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

Lula’s declaration was swiftly confronted by the Israeli government, including an outraged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that “comparing Israel to the Nazi Holocaust and Hitler is crossing a red line.”

The Brazilian Israelite Confederation (Conib), the country’s main Jewish organization, also repudiated Lula’s remarks, saying in a statement that Lula’s “perverse distortion of reality” had “offended the memory of Holocaust victims and their descendants.” The president of Conib, Claudio Lottenberg, said in an interview that Lula “encouraged hate speech.”

The conflict escalated further as Mr. Katz summoned Brazil’s ambassador in Tel Aviv for an unusual reprimand at the Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. They toured the memorial together and in front of the cameras, and Mr. Katz showed Ambassador Frederico Meyer the names of his grandparents who were killed in the Holocaust.

Brazil answered by calling Mr. Meyer back to Brazil for consultations — an expression of disagreement — and by summoning Israeli Ambassador Daniel Zonshine for a meeting at the office of the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Rio de Janeiro, which will host a G20 ministerial summit later this week.

For Daniel Buarque, executive editor of Interesse Nacional, an online magazine about Brazilian diplomacy, Lula’s behavior is a high-risk, high-reward diplomatic move.

(Source: The Brazilian Report)