update deskIsrael at War

Brazil’s Lula: 12.3 million children died in Gaza during war

The combined population of Gaza and Israel is 11 million.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at a rally in Grajau, Sept. 24, 2022. Photo by Wagner Vilas/Shutterstock.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at a rally in Grajau, Sept. 24, 2022. Photo by Wagner Vilas/Shutterstock.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva claimed on Wednesday that over 12 million children have died in Gaza and Israel due to the nearly six-month war.

Citing documents circulating online, the leftist leader said that “12.3 million children died in the Gaza Strip and in Israel because of the war,” speaking at a government conference on the rights of children and adolescents in the capital Brasilia, Israel’s Army Radio reported on Thursday.

The combined population of Israel and Gaza in 2023 was around 11 million. The figure cited by Lula is also about 375 times the number of deaths in Gaza put out by the Hamas-run health ministry during the war, which itself doesn’t distinguish between combatants and noncombatants and whose accuracy has been questioned by experts.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz declared Lula persona non grata in February over his comparison of Israel’s war against Hamas to the Holocaust.

Katz, the son of Holocaust survivors from Romania, told Brazil’s Ambassador Federico Mayer during a hastily arranged tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem that Israel “will not forget and we will not forgive” until the president expresses contrition for his words.

“I want to tell you here that the remarks made by President Lula when he compared the just war of the State of Israel against Hamas which murdered and massacred Jews and Hitler and the Nazis are an utter disgrace, and a severe antisemitic attack on the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” Katz told the ashen-faced ambassador at the Holocaust Memorial.

“In my name—and in the name of all Israeli citizens—tell President Lula that we will not forgive him and that he is persona non grata in Israel until he retracts his statements and apologizes.”

The ambassador received a stern reprimand from the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

“What’s happening in the Gaza Strip isn’t a war, it’s a genocide,” Lula told reporters on Feb. 18 in Ethiopia, where he was attending an African Union conference.

“What’s happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people hasn’t happened at any other moment in history. Actually, it has happened: when Hitler decided to kill the Jews,” he added.

Hamas terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 250 others hostage during the Oct. 7 massacre that triggered the war.

In a further escalation of diplomatic tensions, the Brazilian president subsequently recalled his ambassador to Israel as bilateral relations between the countries went into a full-blown crisis.

Lula summoned the ambassador back to Brazil “for consultations,” according to a statement from the country’s foreign ministry.

Citing “the seriousness” of statements made by Israeli officials, Brazil’s foreign minister, Mauro Vieira, also summoned the Israeli ambassador for a meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has accused Lula of being a “virulent antisemite,” told visiting American Jewish leaders on Feb. 18 that the Brazilian leader had shamefully disgraced the memory of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and vilified the Jewish state.

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