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December 28, 2022 11:35 am

Brazilian Jews Condemn ‘Antisemitic’ Tropes Leveled at Prominent Israeli-Born Economist

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Brazilian Jewish economist Ilan Goldfajn. Photo: Reuters/Latin America News Agency

Brazil’s Jewish community has reacted furiously to comments made during a television interview in which a senior Jewish economist was described using antisemitic tropes.

The comments about Ilan Goldfajn — the recently elected president of the Inter-American Development Bank — were made during a discussion on the popular television show Jornal GGN. One of the participants, Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr — an economist and former International Monetary Fund official — argued that Goldfajn would be hostile to the newly installed left-wing government of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, citing his Jewishness as a key reason.

“He’s essentially a financier, connected to the US Treasury, to the Jewish community. He is actually Brazilian-Jewish, born in Haifa, Israel. And the Jewish community has a strong presence in the US Treasury, in the Monetary Fund, in international organizations, not just in private banks,” Batista said. “As a Brazilian, the only thing he has is his passport.”

Batista also mocked Goldfajn’s last name, calling it “unpronounceable” for not being Portuguese in origin.

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Goldfajn, 56, is a former president of Brazil’s Central Bank. Born in Haifa in 1966, he left Israel at an early age and was raised in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended a Jewish day school and is an active member of the Brazilian Jewish community.

While the original discussion was broadcast on Dec. 16, Jewish groups did not issue their first protests until nearly ten days later.

“Associating Jews with money and power takes us back to the worst moments in human history, which culminated in the persecution and death of our ancestors,” the Sao Paulo Jewish Federation declared in a statement.

The Brazilian Israelite Confederation (CONIB), the Jewish community’s main umbrella body, said that Batista’s remarks had invoked “old antisemitic clichés used by fascists and racists to vilify a Brazilian citizen who contributes so much to our country.”

Separately, the Brazil-Israel Institute took the show’s presenter, Luis Nassif, to task for his claim that Batista’s comments were “xenophobic” but not “antisemitic.”

“The statements are antisemitic as in an antisemitism manual, establishing the classic relationship between Jews and money, triggering the thesis of a Jewish conspiracy and even repeating logic that deprives Jews of the possibility of being Brazilian,” the Institute asserted.

In an article published on Monday, Nassif repeated his insistence that Batista’s comments were not antisemitic.

“It is an undeniable fact that there is a strong Jewish financial community, in the same way that there is a strong community of Lebanese money changers in Brazil,” Nassif wrote.

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