’It’s scary to see horrifying developments that took place in Europe begin to unfold here,’ Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan said during a Holocaust Remembrance speech.
The Israeli army’s deputy chief of staff ignited controversy late Wednesday evening with his remarks which seemed to suggest a parallel between present-day Israel and 1930s Germany.
Maj. Gen. Yair Golan made the comments during a Holocaust Remembrance Day address at Tel Yitzhak.
"It’s scary to see horrifying developments that took place in Europe begin to unfold here," the officer said.
The comments unleashed a torrent of criticism against Golan on social media, with Twitter users accusing the deputy chief of staff of "forgetting the lessons of the Holocaust."
"The Holocaust should bring us to ponder our public lives and, furthermore, it must lead anyone who is capable of taking public responsibility to do so," Golan said. "Because if there is one thing that is scary in remembering the Holocaust, it is noticing horrific processes which developed in Europe – particularly in Germany – 70, 80, and 90 years ago, and finding remnants of that here among us in the year 2016."
Education Minister Naftali Bennett was in the audience during the remarks, according to Hebrew-language media.
"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 in changing the other," the officer said. "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.
"For all intents and purposes, Holocaust Remembrance Day is an opportunity for soul-searching," he said. "If Yom Kippur is the day of individual soul-searching, then it is imperative that Holocaust Remembrance Day be a day of national soul-searching, and this national soul-searching should include phenomena that are disruptive."
Golan made reference to the Hebron incident in which an IDF infantryman was filmed shooting dead a Palestinian assailant who was on the ground and subdued.
The soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, is being tried by a military tribunal on charges of manslaughter. The arrest and court martial have been met with fierce criticism from nationalist Jews who say that the soldier acted properly.
"Improper use of weapons and violating the sanctity of arms have taken place since the IDF’s founding," Golan said. "The IDF should be proud that throughout its history it has had the ability to investigate severe incidents without hesitation. It should be proud that it has probed problematic behavior with courage and that it has taken responsibility not just for the good, but also for the bad and the inappropriate."
"We didn’t try to justify ourselves, we didn’t cover anything up, we didn’t whitewash, we didn’t make excuses, and we didn’t equivocate," the officer said. "Our path was – and will be – one of truth and shouldering responsibility, even if the truth is difficult and the burden of responsibility is a heavy one."
"We very much believe in the justice of our cause, but not everything we do is just," Golan said. "We are certain of the high level of morality in the IDF as an organization, and we do not ignore exceptions by individuals. We demand from our soldiers the same that we demand of ourselves, and we insist that upstanding behavior and setting an example for everyone become second nature for every commander."
"On Holocaust Remembrance Day, as we remember the six million of our people who were slaughtered in Europe, it is incumbent upon us to remember the 6.5 million, those living now, and to ask ourselves what is the purpose of our return to our land, what is appropriate to sanctify and what is not, what is proper to praise and what is not," the officer said.
"Most of all, we should ask how it is that we are to realize our purpose as a light unto the nations and a model society," he said. "Only this kind of remembrance can serve as a living and breathing monument for our people – a worthy monument, a monument of truth."