Israel's Brazil Envoy Rebuked by Foreign Ministry for Saying Left-wing MK 'Hates Jews'

Yossi Shelley apologized to Tamar Zandberg after she filed a complaint with the Foreign Ministry and Civil Service Commission ■ Dispute surrounded reactions to controversial remarks by Bolsonaro on Holocaust

Noa Landau
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Israeli Ambassador to Brazil Yossi Shelley, 2017.
Israel's Ambassador to Brazil Yossi Shelley, 2017. Credit: Gabriel Jabur / Agência Brasíl
Noa Landau

Israel's Ambassador to Brazil Yossi Shelley apologized to Tamar Zandberg, the chairwoman of the left-wing party Meretz, for accusing her of "hating Jews." 

According to a letter sent to Zandberg by Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem, Shelley had a conversations with his superiors during which he apologized for making the comment and said that he "didn't mean her harm."

This comes after Zandberg filed a complaint both to the Foreign Ministry and the Civil Service Comission. The lawmaker was also notified that the commission is investigating Shelley's remarks, which were made during an interview on Army Radio two weeks ago.  

After Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said the crimes of the Holocaust could be forgiven, Zandberg wrote, “Time after time, it turns out that the friends of Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] are the worst racists, chauvinists and anti-Semites.” Bolsonaro, she added, “Ought to be a persona non grata in Israel rather than being welcomed here with royal honors.”

Tamar Zandberg reaches out to Arab voters on Election Day, Kfar Qassem, April 9, 2019.
Tamar Zandberg reaches out to Arab voters on Election Day, Kfar Qassem, April 9, 2019.Credit:

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The next day, Shelley, an activist in Netanyahu’s Likud party who is considered close to the prime minister, assailed Zandberg during an interview with Army Radio. “It’s simply a disgrace for a woman to talk like this, to smear people in this fashion. He [Bolsonaro] hates Jews? Jews hate Jews, that’s what I hear in her voice.”

Zandberg filed a complaint to the Civil Service Commission: “An ambassador’s job is to represent the country, not to lash out at elected officials ... His behavior deviates significantly from the bounds of his job and he deserves a reprimand. If he wants to do his job faithfully and fight for Israel’s honor, he would do better to rebuke anti-Semites and leaders who attack the history of the Jewish people rather than attacking Israel’s elected representatives.”

Bolsonari issued a clarification on his Holocaust remarks via Shelley, saying that forgiveness is a personal matter, and the word was “never meant to be used in a historical context” like that of the Holocaust, in which millions of innocents were murdered in a brutal genocide. “Any other interpretation is only in the interest of those who want to push me away from my Jewish friends,” he added.

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