Jewish Leader Lambasts Israel’s Spokesman for Brazilian Criticism

Claudio Lottenberg, the president of the Jewish Confederation of BrazilBrazil’s Jewish community leader apologized to the administration of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff for statements by the spokesman of Israel’s foreign ministry after Brazil recalled its envoy over the Gaza conflict.

Claudio Lottenberg, the president of the Jewish Confederation of Brazil or CONIB, an umbrella body, apologized to Aloizio Mercadante, the Rousseff administration’s chief of staff, for statements made by Israel’s Yigal Palmor, who called Brazil a “diplomatic dwarf” and a politically irrelevant country, and made fun of the national soccer team’s recent loss by 7 to 1 to Germany in the World Cup.

The spokesman’s comments were “very unfortunate,” Lottenberg reportedly said. “Brazil has the right to express its point of view,” he said.

Brasilia on July 23 recalled for consultation its ambassador to Israel, Henrique da Silveira Sardinha Pinto, to protest Israel’s attacks on Palestinians in Gaza.

A day later, CONIB expressed its “indignation with the announcement sent Wednesday, which evidences a one-sided attitude to the conflict in Gaza in which the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticizes Israel and ignores the actions of the terrorist group Hamas,” CONIB wrote in a statement titled “Reaction to Itamaraty’s (Foreign ministry) declaration which criticizes Israel and spares Hamas any criticism.”

In its statement, the Brazilian ministry wrote: “The Brazilian government considers as unacceptable the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine. We vigorously condemn the use of disproportionate force by Israel in the Gaza Strip, which resulted in an elevated number of civilians victims, including women and children.”

Lottenberg wrote the following note after the repercussion of his statements on the current diplomatic tension between Israel and Brazil:

“Due to the interview granted journalist Monica Bergamo, from Folha de S. Paulo, I have received criticism and praise.

I would like, with humility and a sense of accountability to the community to which I dedicate myself since youth, to comment on the criticism.

First, I would like to emphasize that I receive this criticism with democratic spirit. I got used, throughout my career and community involvement to learn from contrary opinions.

Secondly, I would like to highlight that, in some of the criticism is mentioned an alleged apology. I didn’t do it. I simply regretted the language used by the spokesman. I thought they were ungainly, as they criticized Brazil, the country as a whole, calling it irrelevant.

The spokesman, as usual in diplomacy, could criticize a Government and its foreign policy, not a country, encompassing all its history and its entire population.

And, he was wrong in using irony. It’s hard and uncomfortable to admit it, but there’s no way to cover the sun with a sieve.

His statements have generated malaise in several sectors of the Brazilian society. It was not just the federal Government’s sector.

As President of the CONIB, I have a responsibility to care for our community and to strengthen the ties between Brazil and Israel.

I would like to emphasize also that I didn’t diverge a millimeter from the positions taken by the CONIB since the beginning of the conflict. I always reiterated that I do not accept the thesis of disproportionality, I defend the right of Israel to defend itself and I maintain my criticism to past attitudes of Itamaraty, as expressed in notes disclosed by CONIB.

Anyway, I thank all the suggestions and criticisms.

And I would add that at this moment of historic challenges, we need to maintain our cohesion, without giving up our exercise of criticism. We must face the responsibility for the absolutely fundamental tasks of defending the State of Israel and combating anti-Semitism. We do all this in the name of our children, the children of Israel and the entire Jewish people. “

Claudio Lottenberg

President of the Jewish Confederation of Brasil

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