Palestinian Authority envoy commemorates Holocaust in Brazil


The ambassador of the Palestinian Authority in Brazil joined several Jewish and non-Jewish officials to commemorate the Holocaust at a ceremony in Brazil’s capital.

“I could not be absent. It is very important to remember this date,” the PA envoy, Ibrahim Alzeben, declared at the event in Brasilia in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The ambassadors of Germany, Poland, Russia and Ukraine also attended the Jan. 27 event. The majority of Brazil’s 120,000-strong Jewish community, which is mostly Ashkenazi, has origins in those countries.

However, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was absent for the third year in a row.

“By keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, we alert the present and future generations about the moral abyss we face when prejudice becomes the rule and intolerance becomes the practice,” said the Rousseff statement read by Civil House Minister Jacques Wagner, who is Jewish.

A special recognition was paid to Ben Abraham and Aleksander Laks, the former presidents of the Brazilian Holocaust Survivors Associations in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, who both died in 2015. In an ecumenical moment, a teenage member of an Afro-Brazilian religion who made headlines after she was attacked by stones last year lit one of the menorah candles representing the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

“Only a few decades after the Holocaust, the old anti-Semitism has been updated as anti-Zionism: the denial of the Jews’ right to have their State of Israel. In Brazil, we are still fortunate to be far from radicalism and violent actions,” said Fernando Lottenberg, president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, the country’s umbrella Jewish organization.

Israel has not had an ambassador in Brasilia since December. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nomination of Dani Dayan, a former settler leader in the West Bank, remains unapproved by Rousseff since August and has set off a diplomatic row.

Brazilian Jewish leaders ask President Rousseff not to meet with Ahmadinejad


Representatives of Brazil’s Jewish communities urged the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, not to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his visit to Brazil.

Ahmadinejad is expected in Brazil next week for Rio +20, a United Nations summit on sustainable development that opens June 20.

A delegation of members from the umbrella organization of Brazil’s Jewish communities, Confederação Israelita do Brasil, or CONIB, stated their request during a meeting last week with the country’s foreign minister, Antonio Patriota.

“Ahmadinejad is arriving to Brazil at the invitation of the U.N., not the Brazilian government,” said Ricardo Berkiensztat, executive vice president of the Sao Paolo Jewish community. He added the Iranian Foreign Ministry has asked for a meeting with Rousseff, but no such meeting has been scheduled. Berkiensztat said he did not believe such a meeting would take place.

In explaining their objections, the members of the Jewish delegation cited fears that Iran’s nuclear program is military in nature and recalled Ahmadinejad’s repeated denials of the Holocaust, as well as Iranian persecution of minorities and critics of the regime.

CONIB and other Jewish organizations are planning protest rallies against Ahmadinejad’s arrival in several cities across Brazil for June 17.

Walter Feldman, a Brazilian congressman, warned his fellow lawmakers last week that Ahmadinejad was a “danger to Brazil and South America” and urged the Brazilian government to deny him entry.

Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who belongs to Rousseff’s party, hosted Ahmadinejad in 2009 in Brazil and visited Tehran the next year, when he brokered a deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium in Turkey.