DIPLOMATIC CRISIS

Evangelical leaders praise Lula's statement and say there is no contradiction in being a believer and criticizing Israel

For them, it is more important to take a stance against the daily killing of Palestinians

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
An image made from Rafah shows the Israeli bombardment over Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on February 15th - SAID KHATIB

President's Lula statement that caused a diplomatic crisis with Israel was praised by evangelical leaders heard by Brasil de Fato. They also said they see no contradiction in belonging to Christian, Pentecostal, or Neo-Pentecostal religions and criticizing the Israeli government. 

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“Lula was accurate in his speech and said what is happening in Gaza since neutrality on this issue is impossible. His stance as a head of state and global leader emphasizes the accountability of different countries regarding the Palestinian genocide that has been happening for decades,” said Lutheran pastor Romi Bemcke, from the general secretariat of the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil. 

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Pastor Ariovaldo Ramos, national coordinator of the Front of Evangelicals for the Rule of Law, believes the term genocide was accurately used “since the victims have no way to respond to the attack, only waiting for the moment of fatality”. 

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“I understood that Lula did not compare the two armies (of Nazi Germany and the Israeli Defense Force, also referred to as IDF), but rather two distressing situations, when the victims are completely at the mercy of their executioners”.

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A post shared by Ariovaldo Ramos (@ariovaldo)

 

Why do some defend Israel?

Also, from the coordination of the Front of Evangelicals for the Rule of Law, Nilza Valéria Zacarias emphasizes that Lula’s statement “cannot be seen in isolation, but rather in the context that Brazil had already agreed with South Africa, which classified what is happening there [in Gaza] as genocide”. She says that “no war is acceptable based on the Bible”.

“Since I am an evangelical Christian, my life will be guided by the principles that guide my faith. Thus, it is not acceptable for mothers to lose their children, for children to die, for the elderly… people who look at their lives and see only terror and destruction”.

But where does the connection of certain Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal Christian churches with the Jewish state of Israel come from? Religious leaders agree that this connection is based on wrong principles.

“They establish a direct and mistaken relationship between the contemporary State of Israel and the biblical people of Israel. It is fundamental to highlight that biblical Israel has nothing to do with the current State of Israel,” explains Pastor Romi Bencke.

Understanding the case 

Lula’s statements were made last weekend, during his visit to Ethiopia. He criticized developed countries for reducing or cutting humanitarian aid for the region, classified the killing of civilians in Gaza as genocide and said that “what is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has not existed at any historical moment. In fact, it did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.” 

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

The Israeli government is deeply annoyed by Lula's comment. It declared Brazil's president a persona non grata, demanded apologies, accused him of being antisemitic, teased Brazil through social media and demanded explanations from the Brazilian ambassador to Israel. However, it failed to make many other countries share its outrage. On the contrary, after Lula raised his voice, dozens of European Union countries called for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

Even the USA, Israel’s biggest sponsor, showed no interest in creating a diplomatic crisis with Brazil. After stating that it “does not agree” with Lula’s comparison, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his first visit to the country, and praised the partnership between the nations. 

In Brazil, the situation was politicized, with over 100 federal deputies taking advantage of the situation to try to push through an unlikely impeachment request, which is not expected to leave the drawer of the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. The President of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, even asked Lula to apologize to Israel, which was harshly contested by Senator Omar Aziz (PSD), whose father is a Palestinian. 

 

 

The Evangelical Parliamentary Front issued a declaration of repudiation, saying Lula had created an “unnecessary crisis.” However, religious leaders heard by Brasil de Fato said it would not be a contradiction for evangelical Christians to criticize the killing of Palestinians by Israel since October.

“On the contrary, if we believe in a God of life, faith demands us to take a firm stance on any and all politics that hierarchize people's existence. Palestinian lives are non-negotiable,” concludes Ariovaldo.


Palestinians hold signs in solidarity with President Lula in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, on Wednesday (22) / Zain JAAFAR / AFP

Edited by: Leandro Melito