Addressing a group of Brazilian evangelicals Thursday, Bolsonaro said, “We can forgive, but we can’t forget. That’s my phrase. Those who forget their past are condemned not to have a future.”
The far-right Bolsonaro made a solidarity visit to Israel last month during which he attracted criticism, after a tour of the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, that the Nazis had been “leftists.”
The Brazilian president also, on the guestbook at the memorial, wrote that Holocaust was a “cruel genocide” and people who “forget their past are doomed to not have a future.”
There was no immediate response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has cultivated ties with Bolsonaro.
But President Reuven Rivlin, whose role in Israel is largely ceremonial, wrote on Twitter, "We will never extend our hand to those who deny the truth or attempt to erase it. Not individuals or organizations, not heads of parties and not heads of states. We will never forgive and never forget. No one will order the Jewish people's forgiveness and no interest will buy it."
Yad Vashem said in a separate statement, “It is no one’s place to decide who can be forgiven and whether there should be forgiveness for the crimes of the Holocaust.”
On Sunday, Bolsonaro posted on the Facebook page of the Israeli ambassador to Brazil, Yossi Shelley saying that the comments were "never meant to be used in a historical context,” and "any other interpretation is only in the interest of those who want to push me away from my Jewish friends."
Shelley also said that Bolsonaro meant no disrespect for Jewish suffering adding, “I hope that things will be made clear now, on such an important, sensitive issue for our people.”