RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — 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.