Israeli general stirs controversy with Holocaust remark

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held on January 27 but Israel commemorates it separately on Thursday (File Photo: Reuters)

An Israeli army chief has sparked controversy by appearing to compare contemporary Israeli society to Nazi Germany, in remarks delivered ahead of Thursday’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Deputy chief of staff Major General Yair Golan said in a speech Wednesday marking the beginning of the commemorations that the Holocaust “must bring us to reflect deeply on the nature of man, even when that man is ourselves”.

“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.

“There is, after all, nothing easier and simpler than hating the foreigner... arousing fears and terrifying,” he said.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the nationalist rightwing Jewish Home said Golan had “made a mistake and should immediately correct” it before “Holocaust deniers make these erroneous words a banner and our soldiers are compared to Nazis”.

Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition Labour party, praised the “courageous” Golan.

“The crazies who will start screaming at him now should know -- that’s what moral and responsibility sound like,” he wrote on Twitter.

The military spokesperson’s office on Thursday “clarified” that Golan “had no intention whatsoever to compare the IDF and the state of Israel to the horrors that occurred in Germany 70 years ago.”

“This is an absurd and baseless comparison that he never would have made and it was never his intention to criticise the Israeli government,” a statement read.

Golan’s commander, chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, had angered politicians in February with remarks advocating proportionate responses to Palestinian assailants carrying out stabbing attacks on soldiers.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48