The deputy IDF chief of staff came under a barrage of criticism for saying trends that prevailed in pre-WWII Europe can be seen in Israel today. But if Israelis took a minute to reflect on his comments, they would realize that they were more solemn than slanderous.
Headlines in Israel are blaring this Holocaust Day over a statement by the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the IDF, General Yair Golan, comparing trends in Israel to those in Germany leading up to the Holocaust. At the official state ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday evening, Golan gave a short speech in which he said, among other things:
“If there’s one thing that scares me about Holocaust memory, it’s identifying revolting trends that took place in Europe in general, and Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding evidence of them amongst ourselves, today, in 2016.
After all, there’s nothing easier and simpler than hating the stranger. There’s nothing easier and simpler than fear-mongering and sowing terror. There’s nothing easier and simpler than to become thuggish, morally bankrupt, and self-righteous.” (my translation – the whole speech is here, in Hebrew, courtesy of Haaretz.)
Of course all nuances were destroyed in the media storm that ensued. Many Israelis listening to the news will take away a bastardized version that goes like this: Golan thinks that trends of hatred in Israel mirror the hatred in Germany that led them to commit genocide. By association, what Israel does today is like what Germany did then. Not surprisingly, the IDF and Golan himself issued a statement on Wednesday clarifying that this is not what he meant.
But reactions were swift, angry, and reached partially across political lines. Right-wing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told Israel Radio that Golan was “got things completely wrong.” Elazar Stern, a legislator from Yesh Atid and a retired army man as well as a staunch centrist who has sometimes bucked right-wing narratives, allowed that the spirit of the speech might have been legitimate but that the timing was wrong. The Haaretz reporter and analyst Chemi Shalev wrote a post on Twitter before Golan’s comments, and therefore unrelated: “The attempt to draw parallel outlines between the situation of Jews in the Holocaust to Israel’s situation today verges on Holocaust denial and contempt for Zionism together.” (my translation) But as I noted, the one-dimensional headline...Read More