Brazilian Jews divided over election win for Lula

New president 'Lula' Da Silva was imprisoned for corruption and has spoke of 'friendship' with Iran


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) welcomes his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the presidential offices in Tehran on May 16, 2010. Lula, who heads a 300-strong delegation, is visiting the Islamic republic for a nuclear summit that major powers have said might prove to be Tehran's last chance to avoid new UN sanctions. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

Brazilian Jewish groups have been left divided left-wing ex-president Lula Da Silva beat incumbent Jair Bolsonaro to the top job.

Claudio Lottenberg, President of cross-communal Jewish body the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, wrote: “President Lula, we wish you every success in your four-year term.”

However his short statement hinted at the politician's historically rocky relationship with Brazil’s 120,000-strong Jewish community, adding: “At the same time, we reiterate our permanent readiness for constructive and democratic dialogue."

Former trade union leader Mr Da Silva, commonly known as “Lula”, served as Brazilian president from 2003-2010 and won a slim victory on Sunday gaining just 50.90 per cent of votes, pipping controversial incumbent Bolsonaro to the post.

Da Silva has a history of warm ties with Iran, having invited then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a visit in 2009 after the Islamic Republic leader demanded that Israel "be wiped off the map" and denied the Holocaust. 

Da Silva has also opposed sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program and when asked about the execution of an Iranian woman by stoning for adultery in 2010, the leftist leader said, “I need to respect the laws of a [foreign] country. If my friendship with the president of Iran and the respect that I have for him is worth something, if this woman has become a nuisance, we will receive her in Brazil.”

In 2010, Da Silva became the first Brazilian head of state to visit Israel since Emperor Pedro II embarked on a tour of the Ottoman-ruled Holy Land in 1876. However, his refusal to visit the grave of Zionist leader Theodor Herzl to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth spoke to his long affiliation with pro-Palestinian causes. 

He later laid a wreath at the resting place of the late Palestine Liberation Organisation chair Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, while his government officially recognised Palestinian statehood in the twilight days of his premiership.

the Brazilian Palestinian federation emphatically welcomed his whin, writing in response to the leftist leader’s election win“Long live the Brazilian people, who chose the path of freedom and democracy instead of hatred, intolerance, and fascism. A heartfelt thank you from this Brazilian-Palestinian diaspora,”

The Twitter account of the PalestinaHoy site posted an image of Mr Bolsonaro with an Israeli flag, captioned “Zionism was defeated in Brazil.” 

In contrast to Da Silva, the populist incumbent Mr Bolsonaro has promoted closer relations with both the United States and Israel and embraced more pro-market policies than Mr Da Silva.

An experience member of Brazil's legislature, he has made headlines around the world for his controversial statements and hands-off approach to the Amazon rainforest. A Covid-sceptic, he himself has contracted the virus multiple times.

His wife, First Lady Michelle Bolsanaro, who unfollowed him on social media after his election loss, headed to the polls on Sunday donning a shirt emblazoned with an Israeli flag, prompting leftist Jewish organisation the Brazil-Israel Institute to accuse her of appropriating Jewish culture.

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