Brazil recalls ambassador, summons Israeli envoy as scuffle over Gaza remarks deepens

Moves comes after Brazilian ambassador reprimanded on tour of Yad Vashem, told Lula not welcome in Israel in response to comments comparing Israeli offensive to Holocaust

Brazilian Ambassador to Israel Frederico Meyer tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Brazilian Ambassador to Israel Frederico Meyer tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has recalled his ambassador to Israel for talks, Brazil’s foreign ministry confirmed on Monday, as a diplomatic scuffle played out over the president’s comparison of Israel’s war against Hamas to the Holocaust.

The Brazilian Foreign Ministry also said that Israeli Ambassador Daniel Zonshine was summoned for a reprimand, hours after Ambassador Frederico Meyer had been hauled in for a dressing down in Jerusalem over Lula’s comments.

According to a diplomatic source, Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira and Zonshine had a “harsh, but appropriate” conversation, as Vieira “demonstrated dissatisfaction” with the treatment of Meyer and Lula in Jerusalem over the situation.

That included Meyer being forced to listen to a statement in Hebrew “without an interpreter, without knowing what was being said,” the source added.

It was unclear how long Meyer will stay in Brazil, and how the move will impact diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Sources with knowledge of internal discussions later said Brazil does not intend to retract Lula’s remark.

Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Israel Katz had summoned Meyer for a reprimand following Lula’s comments, telling him that Israel “will not forget and we will not forgive.”

“Tell President Lula that he is persona non grata in Israel until he retracts his statements,” Katz told Meyer during an unusual meeting and tour at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

In his Sunday comments, Brazil’s president accused Israel of carrying out genocide in Gaza and fighting only against women and children.

“What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has no parallel in other historical moments,” he said, before offering up a comparison. “In fact, it did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a press conference in Addis Ababa on February 18, 2024. (Ricardo STUCKERT / Brazilian Presidency / AFP)

Israel is fighting a heavily armed terror group in the enclave in response to the deadliest attack on its population in its history. It says civilian casualties are the result of combatants operating from behind the cover of innocents, and that it makes efforts to minimize the deaths of Gazan civilians, including through evacuations of combat zones.

Hamas’s unverified figures, which do not distinguish between combatants and civilians, point to around 29,000 Gazans killed in the war, or slightly over 1 percent of the Strip’s total estimated population. Israel says at least 12,000 of those were terror operatives, and that the war would end if Hamas were to release the hostages it took during its October 7 onslaught and surrender.

During the Holocaust, the Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler, systematically hunted down the Jewish population of Europe based on a racist ideology, deprived them of all rights, rounded them up in ghettos and camps and exterminated them, annihilating some two-thirds of the continent’s Jews.

Brazilian ambassador to Israel Frederico Meyer, left, and Foreign Minister Israel Katz tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Michael Dimenstein/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded with outrage to Lula’s comments on Sunday, calling them “shameful” and saying the Brazilian leader had “crossed a red line.”

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacres, which saw thousands of terrorists launch an unprecedented attack on Israel’s south, murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping over 250, amid acts of brutality including sexual violence.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel declared war with the proclaimed objectives of dismantling the terrorist organization and securing the release of the hostages.

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