JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed remarks made last week by the Israeli army’s deputy chief of staff in which he appeared to compare Israel and its military to the rise of Nazism in Germany.
“The remarks are fundamentally incorrect. They should not have been made at any time, much less now,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “They do injustice to Israeli society and cause a belittling of the Holocaust. The deputy chief of staff is an outstanding officer, but his remarks on this issue were utterly mistaken and unacceptable to me.”
Netanyahu noted that the meeting was taking place between Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day and Israel’s Independence Day.
“Many things have been said recently about the State of Israel. There is no country that does not have displays of intolerance and violence, but Israeli democracy is strong,” he said. “It condemns these displays and it deals with them according to the law and by other means.”
Gen. Yair Golan seemed to draw comparisons between what is happening now in Israel and pre-Holocaust Germany during a speech last week at the start of Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, at a kibbutz in central Israel near Netanya.
“If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance, it’s the recognition of the horrifying 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.
“There is nothing easier than hating the other. There is nothing easier than raising fears and sowing terror. There is nothing easier than becoming callous, morally corrupt and hypocritical.”
Golan later walked back the remarks, saying in a statement released by the IDF that he “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.” He also called the IDF “a moral army that respects purity of arms and human dignity.”
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon defended Golan, saying his words were “distorted.” Other Israeli lawmakers also offered condemnation and praise for Golan’s message and his retraction.