There’s no doubt that Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, the deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, is a brave soldier who has served the country for decades with courage and distinction. But it was more than poor judgment to compare modern-day Israel to Nazi Germany, followed by a weak “clarification,” not an apology.
“If there is something that frightens me in the memory of the Holocaust, it is identifying horrifying processes that occurred in Europe … 70, 80 and 90 years ago and finding evidence of their existence here in our midst, today, in 2016,” he told a Holocaust memorial ceremony last Wednesday night.
The statement — not a slip of tongue but a prepared text, delivered on the day that the state of Israel commemorates the Holocaust, when the context is clear — is an outrage. And his lame explanation the next day that “I had no intention of making that comparison” simply doesn’t wash. Which other “horrifying processes that occurred in Europe 70, 80 and 90 years ago” could he be referring to if not Nazi Germany?
Golan has no right to use the Holocaust as a prop for his shallow moralizing to the nation and its political leadership. Presumably, the “evidence” of Nazi Germany in Israel’s midst that frightens him so is the fringe phenomenon of Jewish violence toward Palestinians, including the attack on Duma and the horrendous murder of a youth following the murder of three Jewish teens two summers ago.
And this conjures up in the mind of the good general images of Nazi Germany, of Kristallnacht, of ghettos, of death camps? How dare he profane the memory of the six million Kedoshim? How dare he cheapen their suffering to advance his agenda? If he wants to accuse Israeli society of becoming more tolerant of violence toward Palestinians, let him do so without invoking the Holocaust.
His statement also undermines the entire concept of a people’s army. Golan clearly doesn’t represent the majority of the public; he doesn’t think like them, he doesn’t share their sensitivities toward the Holocaust or their ability to keep minimal perspective regarding incidents of right-wing violence.
For men to blindly follow a commander into battle there must be a feeling of trust, of shared ideals, of confidence in the capacity of the leadership to analyze developments and draw logical conclusions.
It was bad enough when the IDF chief of staff decided to take “Jewish identity” programming out of the hands of the Military Rabbinate and outsource it to pluralistic groups; when the top brass abandoned the “right-wing” soldier in Chevron and convicted him in the media before the sun had even set on the day of the shooting. But this demeaning of the Holocaust, and the failure on the part of the top military brass to excoriate the errant general for his abysmal judgment, will create an even greater divide between the people and the military, with all the accompanying dangers to national security.
Finally, Golan’s statement is ammunition for Israel’s worst enemies, who have always accused the country of war crimes, and referred to its soldiers as Nazis, and tried to haul its commanders before the International Court of Justice at The Hague for war crimes.
Now they’ve been endorsed by the deputy chief of staff of the IDF. What a windfall.
It’s ironic that at the same time that Golan compared Israel to the Nazis, the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, compared Israel to the suppressors of the Warsaw Uprising.
“All colonizers, all occupiers, including those who suppressed the Warsaw Uprising, labeled those who were resisting them as terrorists,” he said, attacking Israeli diplomats for terming stone-throwers “terrorists.”
The U.S. State Department, to its credit, immediately condemned the statement, even before seeing the text. “Obviously, we would condemn any anti-Semitic remarks very forcefully,” said spokesman Mark Toner.
Unfortunately, what is obvious to the U.S. State Department is still difficult for the Israeli government to grasp. There is no place for such vile comparisons.