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Lula's controversial 'Israel-Nazi Germany' comparison triggers backlash among Brazilian Christian Evangelicals

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is presenting the results of the new PAC selections for health, education, and social infrastructure alongside government ministers at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on March 7, 2024. (Photo: Ton Molina/NurPhoto)

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's popularity has dropped considerably over the last month, after he compared Israel’s military operations in Gaza to Nazi Germany's genocide during World War II.

Lula’s approval rating is now at its lowest level since April 2023, dropping to 51% in February from 54% in December, according to a new Genial/Quaest poll released on Wednesday. OF those polled, 46% said that he was doing a bad job, up from 43% in December.

“What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people hasn’t happened at any other moment in history except one: When Hitler decided to kill the Jews,” Lula stated.

Israel strongly condemned the statements, demanding an apology and saying Lula is not welcome unless he takes back what he said. According to Brazilian sources, an apology is not forthcoming.

“Comparing Israel to the Nazi Holocaust and Hitler is crossing a red line. Israel fights for its defense and securing its future until complete victory and it does so while upholding international law,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Following the incendiary remarks, Foreign Minister Israel Katz summoned Brazilian Ambassador Federico Mayer to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

“The comparison between Israel’s just war against Hamas, and the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis, is a shame and disgrace and a serious antisemitic attack,” Katz told him.

According to the poll, Evangelical Christians, who make up nearly one-third of Brazil's total population, were especially repulsed by Lula’s antisemitic remarks. Lula’s approval rating among Evangelical Christians dropped to 35% from 41%, whereas their disapproval of his government jumped to 62% from 56%.

“The reaction to Lula's remarks about Gaza seems to give a good clue to explain it,” Quaest pollster Felipe Nunes said.

“About 60% of Brazilians believe he exaggerated in his comparison, but among evangelicals that number is even bigger: 69%,” Nunes added.

According to Nunes, Lula’s remarks “were so poorly received that the president did not obtain majority support even within his own political base.”

Genial/Quaest interviewed 2,000 people of voting age between Feb 25 and 27. The poll has a 2.2 %-point error margin.

Leftist Lula is a supporter of Hamas, Iran and Communist China. He was the president of Brazil between 2003 and 2010 and more recently served time in prison for corruption-related crimes.

In the last elections in October 2022, Lula defeated Jair Bolsonaro, a pro-Israel conservative Christian who served as Brazil’s president from 2019 to 2023. 

As early as January 2023, upon taking office as president, Lula removed the country’s ambassador to Israel from his post and withdrew its ambassador to the U.S. from Washington. Brazil’s new foreign minister also announced that Brazil would "cooperate with Arab countries, primarily Palestine.”

By contrast, Bolsonaro visited Israel shortly after winning the election in 2019, including the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. Following Lula’s comparison of Israel to the Nazis, Bolsonaro led the Brazilian opposition in a large rally in support of Israel in the capital São Paulo in February.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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