President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil said that Nazism was a leftist movement following his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
The far-right leader was asked on Tuesday during his visit to Israel if he agreed with a recent claim by his foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, that Nazis were leftists.
“There is no doubt, right?” Bolsonaro replied, according to Reuters. He went on to say that the Nazi party’s officially named the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, contains the word “socialist.”
Yad Vashem’s website follows the wide historical consensus that Nazism was the product of “the growth of radical right-wing groups in Germany.”
Bolsonaro was visiting Israel just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is up for re-election.
Prior to the trip, the Brazilian leader walked back his promise to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, saying that his government may instead open a “business office” in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu has appeared eager to embrace the new leader of Latin America’s largest economy, despite criticism by Bolsonaro’s opponents at home that the president is hostile to black, indigenous and LGBTQ people, as well as protections for the environment and human rights.
Like evangelical and deeply conservative politicians in the United States, Bolsonaro is divisive among Jewish voters, who tend to be socially liberal but want their representatives to be strongly pro-Israel.
Before his election, he was stabbed in the stomach in Juiz de Fora during a rally. The attacker told the police he was “on a mission from God.”
In the wake of the stabbing, Bolsonaro refused treatment at an Arab hospital commonly chosen by the country’s senior politicians, and was transferred to Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo.
However the Jewish federation’s president sought to reduce tensions, saying: “Brazilian Arabs and Jews use both Albert Einstein and Syrian-Lebanese hospitals with total confidence and cordiality.
“There is no kind of antagonism or animosity between the Brazilian Jewish community and our cousins of the Brazilian Arab community”.
Bolsonaro has caused controversy with many of his views in the past, including outspoken opposition to LGBT rights and abortion, as well as being a critic of environmental regulation and drug liberalisation.
He has also voiced his support for the previous military dictatorship and claimed that the use of torture was “legitimate practice”, while having been accused of racism and misogyny also.