Iran's then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, shakes hands with Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2009. (AP Photo/Andre Penner) AP Photo/Andre Penner
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

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A very tight race in Brazil appears to have been won by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, an ex-convict who welcomed Iran’s Holocaust-denying former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and laid a wreath on Yasser Arafat’s grave.

By United with Israel Staff

On Sunday, it appeared that Brazil’s elections had been won by controversial democratic socialist politician Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Da Silva was president from 2003 to 2010, but was convicted in 2017 of corruption and money laundering, serving time in prison for the offenses.

On da Silva’s watch, “Brazil’s diplomacy took a rather hostile stance toward Israel,” wrote B’nai B’rith International’s Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs, Adriana Camisar, in 2019. “[Da Silva’s] government got very close to the Iranian regime and, in 2010, even tried to prevent the United States and the European Union from sanctioning Iran for its nuclear development program. Brazil was a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council at the time and certainly helped Iran evade international sanctions, at least for a period of time.”

In 2009, da Silva hosted former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a proud Holocaust denier who oversaw Iran’s reign of terror brutalizing dissidents and religious minorities.

In 2010, during his first official visit to Israel, da Silva skipped a visit Theodor Herzl’s grave on the 150th birthday of Zionism’s founding father, opting instead to lay a wreath on the grave of Palestinian arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat in Ramallah.

Da Silva’s government also officially recognized the non-existent Palestinian state, and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, welcomed Palestinian leaders to inaugurate their first embassy the Western Hemisphere.

According to Camisar, “The traditional anti-Israel posture of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty) responds in part to a third-worldist worldview, deeply rooted in Latin America, which has sought to keep distance from the United States, and therefore from one of its main allies, the state of Israel. This worldview is based on a somewhat simplistic understanding of Latin American history, according to which the United States is to blame for most of the region’s problems. This ideological position has been disastrous for the region since it generated a culture of victimization and the distancing of many Latin American governments from the democracies of the West in order to get close to dark regimes such as Iran, Russia and China, among others.”

Camisar continued, “Itamaraty’s anti-Israel posture had also to do with the desire of the Brazilian career diplomats to get Brazil elected as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, in the highly improbable case that the council gets reformed to include new permanent members one day. To achieve this, these diplomats thought it would be necessary to get the votes of the countries that make up the Organization of the Islamic Conference.”

If da Silva’s success at the polls is ratified, he will have defeated President Jair Bolsonaro, who promised to move the Brazilian Embassy to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, and consistently supported the Jewish state on the international stage.