Top general under fire after comparing Israelis to Nazis

A top Israeli general takes heat over his comments after he compares the Israeli society with Nazi Germany on the eve of the Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Israeli Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan is pictured in an undated photo.

Major General Yair Golan, who is currently the second highest ranking officer of the Israeli Army, has been under fire, after he made comments about some correlations between present Israeli society and Nazi Germany of 1930s.

"If there is something that frightens me with the memory of the Holocaust, it is identifying horrifying processes that happened in Europe, and specifically in Germany, 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding testimony to them amongst us, today, in 2016," he said last Wednesday during a speech, just two days before the country’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The top Israeli general is known to be outspoken and bold by Israelis since becoming a commander of army units bordering Syria in 2013.

He dealt with heavy criticism from Israeli right-wing politicians and even faced resignation calls from many Jewish media pundits. One of the Haaretz columnists further questioned the general’s sense of judgement saying "It's hard for me to tell whether he's brave or stupid or possibly both."

The same day Golan made the Nazi comment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a telephone conversation with Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon asking for an immediate explanation with the top brass about the comments. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 8, 2016.

The day following Netanyahu’s phone call to Golan’s boss, the outspoken general seemed to backtrack in a statement.

"The comparison is absurd and lacks any foundation, and there was no intent to draw such a parallel or to criticise the civilian leadership,” Golan said.

“The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] is a moral army that maintains a purity of arms and respects human dignity,” he needed to add.

Israeli Deputy Chief of Staff celebrates his appointment to the commandership of northern front with then-Defence Minister Ehud Barak and top generals during a ceremony in 2013.

But apparently unsatisfied, Netanyahu still went further to openly slam Golan on Sunday in a rare public rebuke of a serving general.

"The comparison that arose from the deputy chief of staff's comments on the processes that characterised Nazi Germany 80 years ago is outrageous," Netanyahu said. "They wrong Israeli society and cheapen the Holocaust."

In addition, Miri Regev, a cabinet minister from his right-wing Likud party, called on Golan to resign.

"The deputy chief of staff is an outstanding officer, but his remarks on this issue were utterly mistaken and unacceptable to me," he pointed out.

However, opposition leaders hit back Netanyahu coming into the defence of Golan.

“The deputy chief of staff spoke about the illness in Israeli society,” Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog declared, blaming Netanyahu to “silence IDF officers.”

Meretz party leader Zehava Golan even described the prime minister as somebody who is indifferent to the Holocaust itself.

Meretz leader Zehava Galon is shown in an undated photo.

Yair Golan is not the first man to establish connections between Nazi-era Germany and Israeli society.

Before Golan, an Auschwitz survivor, Hajo Meyer, who is also the author of the book "The End of Judaism", has raised the issue, saying that he can “write up an endless list of similarities between Nazi Germany and Israel.”

Avraham Shalom, who was a former head of the Israel’s internal security services Shin Bet, also levelled strong criticism of Israeli Defense Forces’ actions in Palestinian territories.

“[We’ve become] a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War Two," he said in an interview for the Oscar nominated documentary "The Gatekeepers."

TRTWorld and agencies