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Israel Declares Brazil’s Lula Persona Non Grata for Equating Gaza Policy with Hitler

The Israeli government has gone into a wild flight-forward attack mode against Brazilian President Lula da Silva, after Lula charged on Feb. 18, at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza was no different from Hitler’s extermination policy of the Jews in Europe. As reported by The Guardian the same day, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz exploded, declaring that “we will not forget nor forgive. It is a serious antisemitic attack. In my name and in the name of the citizens of Israel–tell President Lula that he is a persona non grata in Israel until he takes it back.”

Katz then called in Brazil’s ambassador, Federico Mayer, to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial to publicly reprimand him, pointing to the names of his relatives who were killed in the Holocaust. Of note, he made sure that the media and photographers were present to further humiliate Mayer. Katz went on: Lula’s statements are “shameful and grave. No one will harm Israel’s right to defend itself.” His words were “shameful and alarming,” Prime Minister “Bibi” Netanyahu added, calling them “a trivialization of the Holocaust and an attempt to harm the Jewish people and Israel’s right to defend itself.” Lula “crossed a red line,” he fumed.

Katz’s treatment of a senior diplomat such as Mayer did not go down well at the Brazilian foreign ministry, Itamaraty. Lula immediately instructed that Mayer be recalled to Brasilia for “consultations,” and Brazil’s Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira called in Israeli ambassador Daniel Zonshine to lodge a “harsh but appropriate” complaint about the treatment of both Mayer and Lula, The Times of Israel reported.

It is Lula’s and others’ contention that Israel is deliberately escalating the situation, with the persona non grata designation and the humiliation of ambassador Mayer. “This isn’t done in diplomacy,” said one very senior diplomat quoted by the daily Metropoles today. Lula convened an emergency meeting of ministers and close advisers at his official Alvorada residence this morning to discuss the response to this situation. It was decided that, for now, Lula will make no statement apologizing to Israel for his earlier remarks and that any response will be handled at the diplomatic level only by Foreign Minister Vieira.

An insightful comment came from the editor of Monitor Mercantil on the wrath of Netanyahu’s Israel. Yes, said Marcos de Oliveira, any comparison with the Holocaust is extremely painful to any Jew. “But this is not the reason why the extreme right that governs Israel has turned against Lula. What they won’t accept is the exposure to the whole world of what they are doing to the Palestinians in Gaza and beyond. The Brazilian President had just attended the opening ceremony of the 37th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union. Besides Lula, there was only one other guest: the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammad Shtayyeh, which shows the isolation of the Israeli government on an entire continent.”