Brazilian Jews slam magazine likening Jewish politician to Nazi propagandist

Brazilian Jews slam magazine likening Jewish politician to Nazi propagandist

Leadership condemns comparison of Fabio Wajngarten to Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels by popular weekly in article that claims ‘manipulation by Jewish colony’

Cover image of Istoe magazine's article titled 'Goebbels of the Planalto.' (via JTA)
Cover image of Istoe magazine's article titled 'Goebbels of the Planalto.' (via JTA)

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Several Brazilian Jewish groups are condemning a magazine news article that likened a local Jewish senior politician to Nazi Germany’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

Istoe magazine published on Friday an article titled “Goebbels of the Planalto” — a reference to Brazil’s presidential palace — that highlights the fact that Brazil’s Secretary of Communications Fabio Wajngarten is Jewish and suggests a Jewish conspiracy to back recent advertising budget cuts to media outlets that are not allied with the government.

Established in 1976, Istoe is considered one of Brazil’s three main weekly magazines.

B’nai B’rith’s president, Abraham Goldstein, told JTA that it is “outrageous” for the magazine to use Wajngarten’s Jewish heritage to display “an odious disrespect for Holocaust victims.”

Undated photo of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of propaganda, delivering a speech. (Bengt von zur Muehlen/Yad Vashem Photo Archive)

“They go disgustingly beyond by involving the Jewish community and saying that ‘Israelites are known to operate in the security and information industry underworld,’ which not only is untrue but is also the vilest act of prejudice, racism and anti-Semitism,” Goldstein said.

The reaction led to a rare agreement among both right-wing and left-wing Jewish voices, who have love-or-hate opinions about President Jair Bolsonaro, a fervently pro-Israel Christian politician who commonly hails Israel and has become close friends with current Israeli ambassador in Brazil, Yossi Shelley.

Israeli ambassador Yossi Shelley (R) and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro eat lunch in Brasilia on July 7, 2019. (Israeli embassy in Brazil)

“There are dangerous traces of anti-Semitism. They bring up the idea of Jewish conspiracy used by the Nazi regime itself to justify persecution of the Jews,” the Jews for Democracy, a far-left group that opposes to Brazil’s current government, said in a statement.

In a section called “The Manipulation by the Jewish Colony,” the article highlights the politician’s Jewishness in dubious ways.

“A Jew, Fabio Wajngarten benefits from his relationships with the Jewish community, composed of important businessmen in Sao Paulo,” reads a passage. “In order to please Messiah, he will only allocate from the budget to the ‘converted’ publications,” it says, a reference to Bolsonaro’s middle name — Messiah — and religious conversions.

Illustrative: A Brazilian samba school dancer rehearsing for the Carnival parade in a costume criticizing right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro through a mixed depiction of him and Adolf Hitler. (Courtesy/Ismael Toledo via JTA)

“The article brings pitiful and improper comparisons. Always, and even more so in these times of intolerance and hate preaching, such an approach must be combated,” said the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, the country’s umbrella Jewish organization, in a statement.

Several Jewish federations, which represent most of Brazil’s 26 states, also released statements.

“Intense debate of ideas and partisan ideological disputes should never be confused with religion,” stated the Sao Paulo Jewish federation, which speaks on behalf of a Jewish community of 60,000 that comprises half of Brazil’s Jews.

Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that legal procedures must be supported against the publication.

“This article reminds me of the 1930s, when the notorious German editor Julius Streicher, the owner of the racist newspaper Der Sturmer, caricatured Jews in the lowest and most animalistic way possible. Now, 80 years later, an heir to Julius repeats this flippant narrative in a Brazilian magazine, in a country that does not accept this kind of unworthiness,” said Wurman, an influential journalist who has written more than 100 articles on Judaism, Zionism, and Israel.

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