Jerusalem – A top Israeli general’s comments during the country’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day address sparked controversy when he likened the atmosphere in modern day Israel to 1930’s Nazi Germany.
“If there is anything that frightens me in the remembrance of the Holocaust, it is discerning nauseating processes that took place in Europe in general, and in Germany specifically back then, 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and seeing evidence of them here among us in the year 2016,” Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, the Israeli army’s deputy chief of staff said.
The reaction from Israeli hardliners to Golan’s comments highlighted the deep divisions within Israeli society on what is one of the country’s most solemnly revered days.
Nationalist Jewish home party leader and Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett called on Golan to revise his comments or be seen as comparing Israeli soldiers to Nazis.
Sadly, Bennett fails to understand that’s precisely what Maj. Gen. Golan was implying, as he implored those in power “to fundamentally rethink how we, here and now, behave towards the other.”
“The Holocaust, in my view, must lead us to deep soul-searching about the nature of man,” Golan said. “It must bring us to conduct some soul-searching as to the responsibility of leadership and the quality of our society. It must lead us to fundamentally rethink how we, here and now, behave towards the other.”
“There is nothing easier and simpler than fear-mongering and threatening. There is nothing easier and simpler than in behaving like beasts, becoming morally corrupt, and sanctimoniousness.”
“On Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is worthwhile to ponder our capacity to uproot the first signs of intolerance, violence, and self-destruction that arise on the path to moral degradation,” Golan said.
According to a report by the Associated Press (AP):
The episode also underscored an increasingly evident rift between hard-liners in the government and the country’s security chiefs — who tend to be more pragmatic than many politicians on its troubled relations with the Palestinians.
In a speech Wednesday night, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, the military’s deputy chief of staff, said the Holocaust — in which the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews — should prompt Israelis to “think deeply” about their society.
Golan referenced the Hebron incident, in which an IDF soldier was filmed executing an already incapacitated Palestinian assailant that was lying on the ground defenseless.
The soldier in question, Sgt. Elor Azaria, has been arrested and brought up on manslaughter charges by a military tribunal for the killing; a move that has been met with ferocious opposition by Zionists who claim that the brazen execution was somehow justified.
Hard-liners accused the military of abandoning the soldier by indicting him for manslaughter, and polls showed most Jewish Israelis shared the sentiment. Many Israeli Jews also now openly oppose the equal rights of the one-fifth of the country’s 8 million citizens who are Arabs — who, in turn, are growing increasingly alienated from the Jewish state, according to the AP.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, late Wednesday to express displeasure, according to The Haaretz daily.
The Israeli military then issued a clarification, claiming Golan did not intend to compare Israel and its army to “the horrors” of Nazi Germany. “This is an absurd and baseless comparison that he never would have made and it was never his intention to criticize the Israeli government,” the Israeli military said.
Regardless of how the Israeli government now want to spin Golan’s words, or pressure him to rebuke his comments, they clearly reveal a grave concern about the increasingly callous manner in which Palestinians are being treated and the path that these actions will ultimately lead Israeli society down.
The statements by Golan also reveal a stark division between the military security heads and their internal calls for restraint — and the hard-line politicians who continually call for more repressive and brutal crackdowns.
Earlier this year, the military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, came under fire from parliamentary hard-liners for calling on soldiers to use only “necessary force” against attackers, according to the AP.
On Thursday, Defense Minister Yaalon said he had “full faith” in Golan and denounced “the worrying and bothersome campaign to politically damage the army and its officers.”
Perhaps the military feels emboldened to take a moral stand against warmongering politicians due to their near 90 percent approval rating among Israelis; the military is widely seen as the most trusted state institution in Israel. For Golan to take a stand, and make such moral and courageous statements of truth on a revered day, shows strength, courage and compassion.