Yad Vashem chair pans 'extreme distortion of the Holocaust'

Israel livid as Brazil’s Lula says Israel like ‘Hitler,’ committing genocide in Gaza

Netanyahu says left-wing leader ‘crossed a red line,’ Foreign Minister Katz blasts ‘shameful’ comments; Brazilian ambassador to be summoned for reprimand

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)
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)

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Sunday compared Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza to the Holocaust, saying Israel was committing “genocide” against Palestinian civilians in the Strip and saying the only historical equivalent was “when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

“What’s happening in the Gaza Strip isn’t a war, it’s a genocide,” Lula told reporters 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,” the veteran leftist politician said falsely.

Lula went on to assert that “what is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people hasn’t happened at any other moment in history” except one: “When Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

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. It has stressed it makes efforts to minimize the deaths of Gazan civilians, including through evacuations of combat zones. Hamas’s unverified figures point to around 28,000 Gazans killed in the war, or slightly over 1% of the Strip’s total estimated population. Israel says at least 10,000 of those were terror operatives. Israel has said the war would end if Hamas were to release the hostages 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.

Israel responded with outrage to Lula’s comments, calling them “shameful” and saying the country’s ambassador would be summoned for a “stern reprimand.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Brazilian leader had “crossed a red line.”

“The words of the President of Brazil are shameful and alarming,” said Netanyahu in a statement. “This is a trivialization of the Holocaust and an attempt to harm the Jewish people and Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem on February 17, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Israel is fighting for its defense and securing its future until complete victory and it does so while upholding international law,” he continued.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz called the comments “shameful and grave.”

“No one will harm Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Dani Dayan, the chairman of Yad Vashem, said the comments represented blatant antisemitism and were “an outrageous combination of hatred and ignorance.”

“Comparing a country fighting against a murderous terror organization to the actions of the Nazis in the Holocaust is worthy of all condemnation,” he added. “It is sad that the president of Brazil has stooped to such a level of extreme distortion of the Holocaust.”

IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip in a photo released by the IDF on Feb. 10, 2024. (IDF Spokesperson)

The Jewish state’s war with Hamas broke out on October 7 after the organization’s terrorists launched an unprecedented attack on Israel’s south, murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 253 amid acts of brutality inclusing sexual violence.

It is believed that 134 hostages are being held in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 11 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military. The number of hostages includes two civilians and two fallen soldiers who have been held by Hamas for nearly a decade.

Israel declared war on Hamas with the proclaimed objectives of dismantling the terrorist organization and getting the hostages back.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid said Lula’s comments “show ignorance and antisemitism” and that Israel was “broken-hearted and shocked by the massacre of its citizens” on October 7.

“I wonder what Lula would have said if a terrorist organization had harmed Brazil that way,” he added. “Shame.”

Israel Katz arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem on December 10, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last month, the International Court of Justice held a hearing in the Hague after South Africa filed an application accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza and demanded the court order Israel to stop the fighting.

The case is expected to last years. The court refused South Africa’s request to take immediate measures to order Israel to halt its campaign, but said there was “plausibility” to Pretoria’s claim that Israel was in breach of certain elements of the Genocide Convention amid the war and said Jerusalem must make efforts to prevent harm to civilians.

Israel’s former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, who served on the panel as Israel’s representative, argued that ruling was based on “scant evidence.”

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