President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva compares Israel’s military actions in Gaza to the Holocaust, sparking international backlash.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Israeli officials denounced remarks by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva comparing Israel’s military offensive in Gaza to the Holocaust on Sunday and summoned the South American country’s ambassador to Jerusalem for a formal reprimand.

“What’s happening in the Gaza Strip isn’t a war, it’s a genocide,” Lula said in Addis Ababa where he was attending an African Union summit. “It’s not a war of soldiers against soldiers. It’s a war between a highly prepared army and women and children.”

He added, “What’s happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people hasn’t happened at any other moment in history. Actually, it has happened: when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Brazilian president’s comments “shameful” while Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted that the Foreign Ministry had summoned Ambassador Frederico S. Duque Estrada Meyer for a formal reprimand.

“The words of the president of Brazil are shameful and serious,” Katz wrote. “No one will harm Israel’s right to defend itself. I have ordered the people of my office to summon the Brazilian ambassador for a reprimand call tomorrow.”

Danny Dayan, chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust called Lula’s comments “an outrageous combination of hatred and ignorance.”

Referring to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s widely adopted definition of antisemitism, Dayan said, “According to the definition of IHRA (an organization in which Brazil itself is looking towards becoming a member) this is a clear anti-Semitic statement.”

“A comparison of a country fighting a terrorist organization, which massacred over 1,200 of its citizens without any distinction, to the actions of the Nazis who exterminated six million Jews deserves every condemnation. It is sad that the leader of a country descends to such a low point of extreme distortion of the Holocaust,” Dayan said.

The IHRA is an intergovernmental organization based in Berlin that seeks to strengthen Holocaust education.

According to the IHRA definition, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The definition cites 11 examples, including, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” “Applying double standards by requiring of it [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” and “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 134 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead.