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Can the Holocaust Be Forgiven? Bolsonaro Says Yes, Drawing Israelis’ Ire

Category: Middle East,World

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil drew Israel’s ire on Saturday for saying the crimes of the Holocaust are forgivable.

Mr. Bolsonaro made the comments Thursday night at a meeting with evangelical pastors in Rio de Janeiro. He was talking about his visit to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem earlier this month.

“We can forgive. But we cannot forget,” he said of the Holocaust, adding that action was needed to ensure its horrors were not repeated. “Those who forget the past are condemned to not have a future,” he added.

President Reuven Rivlin of Israel and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial criticized the right-wing Brazilian leader, who has come under fire before for his controversial statements on other subjects.

“We will never forgive and never forget,” Mr. Rivlin said on Twitter. Without mentioning Mr. Bolsonaro by name, he went on with a message clearly directed at him.

“Political leaders are responsible for shaping the future. Historians describe the past and research what happened. Neither one should stray into the territory of the other,” he said.

Yad Vashem, the center in Jerusalem that serves as a memorial to the six million Jews murdered by Nazis during World War II, also took issue with Mr. Bolsonaro’s comments.

“We disagree with the Brazilian president’s statement that the Holocaust can be forgiven,” the center said, according to Israeli media reports.

This month, Mr. Bolsonaro visited Israel for four days and traveled to Yad Vashem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He stirred controversy during the visit when he echoed an earlier remark by his foreign minister, who said Nazism was a leftist movement.

The museum’s website said the Nazi Party was an outgrowth of “radical right-wing groups.”

Mr. Bolsonaro has worked to build stronger ties with Israel. He has vowed to relocate his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, following the lead of President Trump. The policy move, while embraced in Israel, is also popular with Brazilian evangelicals who helped elect him to office.

But during his visit to Israel, Mr. Bolsonaro left his evangelical supporters disappointed when he announced Brazil would establish a commercial office in Jerusalem but leave the embassy in Tel Aviv for the time being.

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