Un-shellfish attitude

Israel’s Brazil envoy says he ate salmon with Bolsonaro, not lobster

Ridiculed for clumsily trying to censor non-kosher crustacean from picture, Yossi Shelley says he didn’t eat it but also didn’t remove it, so as to not offend hosts

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

Israel’s envoy to Brazil attempted to defend himself Monday after he was ridiculed for trying to conceal the fact that there was lobster on the table during his meeting with President Jair Bolsonaro, claiming he had in fact eaten salmon.

The Israeli mission on Sunday tweeted a picture of Yossi Shelley and Bolsonaro eating lunch before attending a Brazil-Peru soccer game. Their plates were blurred with black marks — an apparent attempt to hide the fact that Shelley was eating a non-kosher meal.

However, the sloppy editing did not fully hide the food, leaving the offending crustaceans plainly visible.

The post garnered thousands of likes and comments ridiculing the embassy for its efforts to “censor” the lobster, mostly from Brazilian Twitter users. Dozens “re-edited” the picture by superimposing other foods onto Shelley and Bolsonaro’s plates, while others pointed out that the embassy could have effectively hidden the lobsters by simply cropping the bottom third of the image.

In a statement Monday to reporters, Shelley said that “all sorts of foods were served, including salmon. I didn’t eat what was served to avoid offending the participants. For the same reason I blackened the photo so that it wouldn’t be understood otherwise, God forbid.”

Later, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 news, Shelley clarified his remarks and said seafood had been served but “I don’t eat those things and definitely don’t order them. I put it aside and took salmon, which has a similar color.

“You’re at a private meal and are being served — what will you do, throw it out?” he said. “This doesn’t cast a shadow over my relationship [with Brazilian authorities] or the state’s. I didn’t eat the shrimp.”

Shelley, a Likud party activist and former businessman, was appointed ambassador to Brazil in January 2017 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

His term there has seen a shift in relations between the two countries, particularly since the election of Bolsonaro earlier this year.

Bolsonaro, a former army chief, has drawn condemnation for his disparaging remarks about gay people, women, indigenous groups and black people during his 28-year career as a Brazilian congressman.

Netanyahu has eagerly embraced the newly elected Bolsonaro, who has found common ground with the Israeli prime minister’s right-wing government. His outspoken support for Israel has also resonated with his evangelical base.

In May, Bolsonaro awarded Shelley the National Order of the Southern Cross, Brazil’s highest national honor for high-ranking guests. Shelley told The Times of Israel at the time that he received the honor for his work in the economic sector over the last two years and for strengthening ties between Israel and Brazil in the fields of water technology, security and diplomacy.

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