Israel said it helped Brazil thwart an attack on the country’s Jewish population by Hezbollah, the Iran-linked militant group.
Brazilian police confirmed they had arrested two people on terrorism charges, while Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, thanked Brazilian security services for their assistance in foiling the attack. There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah or Iran, Reuters reported.
Domestic extremism is rare in Brazil, but the country has recorded a rise in antisemitic reports since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Hezbollah was collecting information on synagogues and Jewish centers that could be targeted in future attacks, according to Brazilian newspaper O Globo. Hezbollah’s interest in Brazil, the outlet noted, is related to the relative ease of securing falsified documents in the country, and the proximity it offers to drug trafficking groups.
Antisemitism and far-right extremism are on the rise in Brazil. Police have been tracking the proliferation of neo-Nazi groups, while school shootings and stabbing attacks are also increasing. One researcher estimates that more than 1,000 neo-Nazi groups are operating in Brazil, The New York Times reported this week. Last month the Brazilian Israelite Confederation received 467 reports of antisemitism, compared to 44 in October last year.
Some in Brazil’s Jewish community said they were unsurprised that such a plot was in the works, Haaretz reports. “Many Jews in Brazil have been complacent and believe that something like this could never happen here because we are such an inclusive and tolerant society,” Rabbi Adrian Gottfried told the Israeli newspaper. He added that he was sure that the Oct. 7 attack would ”give a major push to all the extremists around the world, including Brazil.” There are about 92,000 Jewish people in Brazil, according to the World Jewish Congress.