The deputy head of the Israeli military set off a scorching round of criticism in his country after he compared some traits of today’s Israel to “nauseating trends” of Nazi Germany before WWII.
Predictably, he had to backtrack from his statement.
Major General Yair Golan made the controversial remarks during a Holocaust Remembrance Day address at Tel Yitzhak.
“…Because if there is anything that frightens me in the remembrance of the Holocaust, it is discerning nauseating trends that took place in Europe in general, and in Germany specifically back then, 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and seeing evidence of them here among us in the year 2016.”
Golan’s comments come almost two months after an Israeli soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, was caught on camera shooting an alleged Palestinian attacker in the head, despite the fact that he was unarmed and lying on the ground.
The incident prompted global outrage over Israel Defense Forces' use of excessive force against knife-wielding Palestinian assailants, most of whom are underage.
In an apparent reference to the point-blank execution, Golan condemned “improper use of weapons” by Israeli soldiers.
"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."
Quite obviously, Golan was criticized by many in Israel to even hint at a comparison between the IDF and the Nazis. Far-right education minister Naftali Bennett, for example, demanded a swift apology, according to the Guardian.
“A moment before our soldiers are compared to Nazis, with ‘endorsement’ from up high — the deputy chief of staff has erred and must rectify it immediately,” she posted on Twitter.
Later, the IDF chief released a clarification, saying he didn’t intend “whatsoever to draw any sort of parallel or to criticize the national leadership.”
Golan’s subtle comparison was criticized by many. However, he isn’t the first one to draw parallels between Israeli government and military policies and Nazi Germany.
In 2009, Hajo Meyer, a German-Dutch physicist and Auschwitz survivor, compared modern-day Israel to 1930s Germany in an interview with The Electronic Intifada.
“I can write up an endless list of similarities between Nazi Germany and Israel, he said. “The capturing of land and property, denying people access to educational opportunities and restricting access to earn a living to destroy their hope, all with the aim to chase people away from their land. And what I personally find more appalling than dirtying one’s hands by killing people is creating circumstances where people start to kill each other.
Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters reiterated Meyer’s views four years later, accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing, referring to the Jewish state as a racist apartheid regime.
“For an artist to go and play in a country that occupies other people’s land and oppresses them the way Israel does, is plain wrong,” Waters stated. “They should say no. I would not have played for the Vichy government in occupied France in the Second World War, I would not have played in Berlin either during this time. Many people did, back in the day. There were many people that pretended that the oppression of the Jews was not going on.”