Deputy CoS: Israel Is Not Pre-Nazi Europe

YERUSHALAYIM -
Deputy IDF Chief of Staff, Yair Golan. Photo by Gefen Reznik/Israel Army Spokesperson
Deputy IDF Chief of Staff, Yair Golan. (Gefen Reznik/Israel Army Spokesperson)

Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Yair Golan on Thursday clarified what he said were statements that had been taken out of context he made in a speech Wednesday night, at a ceremony commemorating victims of the Holocaust. “I did not intend to compare the IDF and the situation in modern Israel to those that took place in Germany 70 years ago. Such comparisons are absurd and obviously not what I intended.”

He also did not intend to insult the IDF, he said. “The IDF is a moral army that maintains a ‘purity of arms’ and respect for all people. I was not intending to imply otherwise, nor was I intending to criticize the political echelon.”

Many MKs and public officials thought otherwise. Speaking at the opening of Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies at the Masu’ah Military Academy, Golan said that he had “identified in Israel some of the same processes that were in place in Europe before the Holocaust, particularly in Germany, 70, 80, or even 90 years ago. We see some of these same things happening here among us in 2016.”

The lesson of the Holocaust, as far as he was concerned, “must bring us to carefully consider the responsibility of the leadership and the quality of life of our society, and bring us to think about how we treat widows, orphans, foreigners and others like them. There is nothing easier than hating the other, or to frighten people with threats, or to act in an animalistic manner. The appropriate thing on Holocaust Memorial Day would be to expunge ourselves of the sparks of impatience, violence, self-destruction and moral degradation.”

While there was room to debate the ideas that Golan mentioned, the comparison of Israel to pre-Nazi Europe was what needed to be expunged, said Education Minister Naftali Bennett. “A moment before the Holocaust deniers seize on this as the find of the century, and before others find justification for comparing our soldiers to Nazis, these words must be retracted.”

MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) said that “it was frightening that someone would make such ridiculous use of the Holocaust, especially when that someone is the Deputy CoS. Which ‘processes’ that are happening here are reminiscent of Europe? Are there gas chambers here, do we seek to commit genocide against anyone? Have you gone crazy?”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that Golan’s comments indicate that he was “confused and had little understanding of history. It also shows he is ignorant of the facts, and his comments denigrated the suffering of those who died in Holocaust.”

Less bellicose in his response was Zionist Camp head Yitzchak Herzog, who called Golan “brave. Those who are now barking against him should realize that he is talking about morality and responsibility. We will not be intimidated by insults, and we will always back the IDF and its officers.”

Also backing Golan were fellow Zionist Camp MKs Nachman Shai and Yoel Chasson. The speech was evidence that “something good is happening in the IDF leadership,” said Shai, while according to Hasson, “the job of leadership is to develop a vision of values for a country and society. This was a brave speech that seeks to fill the leadership vacuum we suffer from.”