Israeli Defense Minister Defends IDF Deputy Who Likened Trends in Israeli Society to 1930s Germany

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Deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan.
Deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan.Credit: Rami Shlush

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon rushed to the defense of IDF deputy chief of staff Yair Golan, who was widely criticized for appearing to compare Israel to pre-Holocaust Germany in remarks at an annual Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony.

Ya'alon said he had "full confidence" in Golan, calling him a "valued commander, driven by values and many accomplishments."

"The attacks on him due to intentional, distorted interpretations of something he said yesterday, are an additional attempt of a worrisome campaign to inflict political damage on the IDF and its officers," Ya'alon said.

"We cannot afford to let that happen.The job of every IDF commander, certainly a senior commander, does not end with leading soldiers into battle, but obliges him to map out values with the help of a compass as well as their consciences."

Golan published a clarification on Thursday, saying 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 added that "the IDF is a moral army that respects purity of arms and human dignity and "there was no intention of creating any such parallel or to criticize the political echelons.

Golan, in his remarks 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.