(Bloomberg) -- Brazil is escalating a diplomatic rift with Israel, saying the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s controversial remarks about the war in Gaza to divert attention from a “massacre” happening there.

“The words from Netanyahu’s government are unacceptable in their form, and deceiving in their content,” Brazil’s Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira told reporters on Tuesday. “They’re putting up a smoke screen to hide the real problem which is the ongoing massacre in Gaza.”

Lula caused controversy on Sunday when he compared the killing of civilians in Gaza with the genocide of Jews during the Holocaust. His words have not only created a diplomatic crisis with Israel, but also fueled disagreement among Group of 20 nations whose foreign ministers are meeting this week in Rio de Janeiro.

Disagreement over the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Gaza are threatening to paralyze the G-20 under the rotating presidency of Brazil. Lula, as a leader of the so-called Global South, is setting the tone of the debate that will take place when countries such as South Africa and Brazil push for the inclusion of their view that the Israel-Hamas war is causing a genocide of civilians in Gaza.

Read More: Israel-Hamas War Splits G-20, Risking Paralysis at Meeting

Following Lula’s comments on Sunday, Israel declared the leftist president persona non grata in the country and summoned the Brazilian ambassador to Tel Aviv for a reprimand. Brazil immediately called him back home for consultations. 

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz, in a social media post written in Portuguese, described Lula’s comments as shameful for Brazil and a “spit on the face of Brazilian Jews.” He added that “millions of Jews around the world are waiting for an apology.” 

But Vieira said there’s no reason for that.

“The president can not retract or deny the massacre that’s happening in Gaza,” he said. “That’s unacceptable.” 

(Updates with comments from Brazil foreign minister, context starting in fourth paragraph.)

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