"We will not forget nor forgive. It is a serious antisemitic attack. In my name and the name of the citizens of Israel - tell President Lula that he is persona non grata in Israel until he takes it back."In response, Lula's chief advisor, Celso Amorim, was quoted by the G1 news outlet as saying that declaring the president persona non grata is "absurd."
Brazil recalls ambassador from Israel
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday asked his ambassador to Tel Aviv to return to Brasilia for consultations. The move came after Israel declared Lula "persona non grata" over his comments about Gaza.
The president was quoted by Brazilian media over the weekend as likening Israel's actions in Gaza to a time "when Hitler decided to kill the Jews," referring to the Holocaust during the Second World War.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz responded by summoning the Brazilian Ambassador Frederico Meyer for a protest - not to the ministry, but to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. There, Katz called Lula's words "a serious antisemitic attack" and showed Meyer the names of his own relatives killed by the Nazis."We will not forget nor forgive," Katz told Meyer, according to his post on X (formerly Twitter). "In my name and the name of the citizens of Israel - tell President Lula that he is persona non grata in Israel until he takes it back."Lula has stood by his words, however, and ordered Meyer back to Brazil. The Brazilian embassy in Tel Aviv will be run by a charge d'affaires, which is a downgrade in diplomatic relations.
Lula's wife, Rosangela 'Janja' da Silva, defended her husband on Monday, saying his words "referred to the genocidal government and not to the Jewish people.""I am proud of my husband who, since the beginning of this conflict in the Gaza Strip, has defended peace and especially the right to life of women and children, who are the majority of victims," Janja wrote on X. "I am sure that if President Lula had experienced the Second World War, he would have defended the Jews' right to life in the same way."Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Lula's comments as "crossing a red line." Netanyahu declared war on Hamas after deadly raids by the Palestinian group on October 7 last year, in which an estimated 1,200 Israelis died. Since then, more than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, most of them women and children. Much of the enclave has been reduced to rubble, while several members of Netanyahu's government have openly advocated expelling its two million inhabitants to Egypt.
The International Court of Justice asked Israel last month to refrain from actions that could be considered genocidal, following a complaint by South Africa under the Genocide Convention.