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Brazil: Lula angers Jewish community over war on Gaza

November 15, 2023 at 1:47 pm

Brazilians, repatriated from Gaza, are welcomed by Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (R) as they arrive at Brasilia Air Base in Brasilia, Brazil, on November 13, 2023 [Mateus Bonomi/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Brazilian President Lula Da Silva appears to have angered his country’s Jewish community after accusing Israel of “killing innocent people without any criteria” in the Gaza Strip. Jewish representatives described Lula´s remark as “dangerous”. Brazil has the second largest community of Jews in Latin America.

“The words of President Lula are mistaken and dangerous,” said the Israeli Confederation of Brazil, which represents the country’s 120,000 Jews. “Since the beginning of this tragic war, provoked by the most terrible massacre against Jews since the Holocaust, Israel has been making visible and proven efforts to spare Palestinian civilians, asking them to move to safer areas, creating humanitarian corridors, warning the population of imminent attacks.”

Despite such “visible and proven efforts”, though, more than 11,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed, most of them children and women, and civilian infrastructure has been targeted, including hospitals, schools and places of worship.

READ: Brazil slams Israel’s war on Gaza as ‘genocide’

Nevertheless, the organisation claimed that the death of Palestinian civilians is part of the strategy of Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement whose attack on Israel on 7 October sparked off the latest Israeli offensive on the besieged enclave. “In addition to being mistaken and unfair,” it added, “statements like this from the President of the Republic are also dangerous.”

The Brazilian Jewish community asked Lula for a” balanced attitude and calm actions” from the Brazilian authorities so that the country is not concerned with the “terrible conflict” in the Middle East.”

Lula’s comments were made as he welcomed to Brasilia 22 Brazilian citizens and 10 members of their families who were evacuated from Gaza via the Rafah border with Egypt after more than a month under heavy Israeli bombardment. The president offered his support to Brazilians who are still in the Gaza Strip and promised to evacuate them soon.

He also accused Israel of “dropping bombs where there are children, hospitals, on the pretext that terrorists are there. They are not killing soldiers, they are killing children. Until now I’ve never heard of children being the preferred victims in a war.”

Lula, 78, pointed out that he had “never” seen “such brutal and inhuman violence against innocent people” throughout his long life. He asked for details of the “visible and proven” efforts by the Israeli authorities “to save Palestinian civilians.”

At the beginning of the war, President Lula slammed Israel’s assault on the besieged Gaza Strip as a “genocide”, a view which has since been shared by many, including a senior former UN human rights official. “What is happening is not a war,” he said at the time. “It is a genocide that led to the killing of nearly 2,000 children who had nothing to do with this war. They are the victims of this war.” The number of children killed by Israel has since risen to more than 4,000.