Israel condemns Brazil's Lula for comparing Gaza war to Holocaust

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Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has repeatedly criticized Israel's campaign against Gaza.

Israel has condemned Brazil's president for accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza, comparing its actions to the Holocaust.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Israel's military campaign was between “a highly prepared army and women and children”.

Israel's foreign minister described Lula's comments as anti-Semitic and said he was “persona non grata” in the country until he retracted them.

The main Jewish organization in Brazil has also criticized Lula's comments.

Speaking from the African Union summit in Ethiopia, Lula said, “What is happening in Gaza with the Palestinian people is not comparable to any other historical moment. In fact, it was when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.

“This is not a war against soldiers. It is a war between a highly prepared army and women and children.”

A senior leftist politician condemned the October 7 surprise attack on Israel in which Hamas gunmen killed at least 1,200 people and took 253 hostages.

But he has been fiercely critical of Israel's retaliatory military campaign, which the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says has killed more than 28,800 people, mainly women and children.

“We will not forget and we will not forgive,” responded Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

“This is a serious anti-Semitic attack. In my name and in the name of the citizens of Israel – tell President Lula that he is private in Israel until he takes it back.”

Mr Netanyahu previously said Lula's comments were “an attempt to trivialize the Holocaust and harm the Jewish people and Israel's right to self-defense”.

“The comparison between Israel and the Holocaust of the Nazis and Hitler crosses a red line,” he said in a statement.

Six million Jews were systematically murdered by Hitler's Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s.

Israel summoned Brazil's ambassador to a meeting on Monday.

The Brazilian Israeli Federation – the country's main Jewish organization – said Lula's comments were a “perverse distortion of the truth” that “hurts the memory of Holocaust victims and their descendants”.

Lula endorsed South Africa's genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last year.

ICJ judges ruled in January that South Africa's case against Israel could proceed.

The court ordered Israel to restrain its military from committing acts of genocide, prevent and punish incitement to genocide, and provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.

But the court stopped short of calling on Israel to immediately end its military operations in Gaza.

Brazil and South Africa are members of the BRICS group of nations – an alliance of some of the world's most important developing economies that have come together to challenge the wealthy West.

On the ground in Gaza, the World Health Organization said the territory's Nasser Hospital had ceased operations following an Israeli attack. The IDF said its operation was “precise and limited” and accused Hamas of “cynically using hospitals for terrorism”.

Meanwhile, efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas are underway in Cairo, although Qatari mediators have said recent progress is “not very promising”.

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