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Jean-Pierre twice declines to decry Brazil president’s comparison of IDF, Nazis

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“I’m going to let Lula speak for himself,” the White House press secretary said. She added that 2024 is a different point in history from 1933-1945.

Menachem Wecker


Karine Jean-Pierre was asked twice during a press gaggle aboard Air Force One, en route to Los Angeles, about Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s comparison of the Israel Defense Forces and the Nazis.

The most the White House press secretary could muster was the truism that Israel’s ongoing defensive war in Gaza was happening at a different historical time than the Holocaust did, and that 2023 and 2024 were different from 1933-1945.

“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,” Lula told reporters on the sidelines of the 37th African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Brazilian president’s comments “shameful and alarming” and said they trivialize the Holocaust and seek “to harm the Jewish people and Israel’s right to defend itself.”

On Air Force One on Wednesday, a reporter asked Jean-Pierre, “Do you agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu that it was inappropriate for Lula of Brazil to compare the plight of the Palestinians with the plight of the Jews in the Holocaust?”

“Look, I’m not—I’m going to let Lula speak for himself,” the White House spokeswoman said, without denouncing the antisemitic statement.

“We’ve been very clear where we stand. We stand, obviously, with Israel being able to defend itself against Hamas and this terrorist organization,” she said. “That’s why we continue to push for—obviously, one of the reasons we continue to push for the national security supplemental.”

Blinken Lula
U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken meets with Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brasilia, Brazil on Feb. 21, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

She went on to condemn Hamas’s attack terror attack on Oct. 7 and stressed the importance of aid for Palestinians and a temporary ceasefire.

A second reporter gave Jean-Pierre another chance, “just to put a fine point on it,” to condemn the Brazilian president’s comments. “Is it appropriate, as terrible as the suffering is in Gaza, to equate it with the Holocaust?” the reporter asked.

Jean-Pierre again faltered. “Look, I—I—I’m not going to—this is a very sensitive situation right now—obviously, a very sensitive issue,” she said, per the official White House transcript. “We understand that as it relates to what folks are seeing in Gaza, it’s incredibly personal.”

“And what I can say is that we support—obviously, our policy in Israel is —is steadfast. And—and I’m just going to be super mindful,” she added. “Obviously, those are two different scenarios—right?—two different situation: what we saw in the Holocaust. And it is—it is two different things that should not be compared.”

“But obviously, what we’re seeing in—what we’re seeing—the devastation that we’re seeing in—in—with the Palestinian civilians, what Hamas is causing is devastating. It is devastating,” she said.

“But they’re two different times in history,” she added. “And we have to be very clear about that.”

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