IDF Deputy Clarifies He Did Not Mean to Compare Israel to pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany

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IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan speaks at a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak on May 4, 2016.
IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan speaks at a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak on May 4, 2016.Credit: Assaf Shilo/Israel Sun

Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Yair Golan published a clarification on Thursday after his comments on Wednesday that it was frightening to see processes going on in Israel which occurred in Europe before the Holocaust.

The IDF spokesperson said that Golan "did not intend to compare the IDF and Israel to what happened in Germany 70 years ago. Such a comparison would be absurd and baseless."

The clarification said that "the IDF is a moral army that respects purity of arms and human dignity."

"There was no intention of creating any such parallel or to criticize the political echelons."

Golan, in his unusual remarks on Wednesday in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, said:

"If there's something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it's the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016."

Golan said that the Holocaust "must make us think deeply about the responsibility of leadership, the quality of society, and it must lead us to fundamental thinking about how we, here and now, treat the stranger, the orphan and the widow, and all who are like them."

"There is nothing easier than hating the stranger, nothing easier than to stir fears and intimidate. There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously," he added.

"On Holocaust Remembrance Day we ought to discuss our ability to uproot the seeds of intolerance, violence, self-destruction and moral deterioration," Golan said.

Just as Yom Kippur is a day for personal atonement, Golan said, "it ought to be and in fact it's actually essential" for Holocaust Remembrance Day to be a national day of atonement.

"National atonement ought to include unsettling issues," he said. "A few weeks ago the public began to debate purity of arms, and I'd like to say a few words about that. The abnormal use of weapons and harm to purity of arms have occurred in the history of the IDF since its establishment. The IDF has always taken pride in its ability to investigate difficult events impartially and to take full responsibility for what is good but also for what is bad and unacceptable."

"We didn't justify ourselves, cover up, smooth things over, dismiss with a wink or make excuses. Our path was always that of truth and taking responsibility, even when the truth is difficult and the responsibility weighty. We believe very much in the justice of our path, but not everything we do is just. We trust the IDF's moral standards as an organization, but we do not ignore individual deviations."

Habayit Hayehudi head and Education Minister Naftali Bennett demanded Golan retract his remarks.

"Before Holocaust deniers will raise these erroneous words as a standard, before our soldiers will be compared to Nazis, God forbid, with legitimization from high above, the deputy chief of staff has erred. He must rectify this immediately," Bennett said.

Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog expressed support for Golan and called him a "brave commander."

"Disturbed people who will start shouting now against him ought to know, this is what morality and responsibility sound like." Herzog said.

Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni said that "instead of persecuting the deput ychief of staff whose conscienece and values represent the IDF as a moral army that examines itself, it is more important for us to listen to his words."

Meretz leader Zehava Galon said Golan's comments "reflect the depth of serious crisis between military commanders and the political echelons who undermine IDF values and encourage militancy."

Habayit Hayehuydi MK Betzalel Smotrich said "I am pleased with the deputy chief of staff's clarification and am sure he will weigh his words more carefully in the future."