Netanyahu says army general’s Holocaust remarks ‘unacceptable’

Deputy leader of IDF compared trends in Israel with those in pre-war Europe

 Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “The comparison implied is outrageous and baseless.” Photograph: EPA/Ronen Zvulun/Pool

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “The comparison implied is outrageous and baseless.” Photograph: EPA/Ronen Zvulun/Pool

 

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has launched a scathing attack on the deputy Israel Defence Forces (IDF) chief of staff Maj Gen Yair Golan for “disrespecting the memory of the Holocaust”.

Gen Golan sparked controversy last week when, during a speech honouring Holocaust remembrance day, he said he identified trends in contemporary Israel similar to those in pre-war Europe.

“If there is something that frightens me about the memory of the Holocaust, it is seeing the abhorrent processes that took place in Europe, and Germany in particular, some 70, 80 or 90 years ago, and finding manifestations of these processes here among us in 2016,” he said.

Not a comparison

“I had no intention of making that comparison – it is absurd and unfounded,” Gen Golan said. “There was no intention of creating that impression or to criticise [Israel’s] political echelon. ”

However, Mr Netanyahu said Golan’s comments were “unacceptable”.

“The comparison implied is outrageous and baseless. These remarks should not have been made at all, and certainly at the time they were said. These remarks wrong Israeli society and disrespect the memory of the Holocaust.”

Culture minister Miri Regev, from Mr Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, called on the general to resign, saying he had joined those who delegitimise Israel.

Retired generals along with politicians came to the general’s defence, most notably defence minister Moshe Ya’alon, who issued a statement in support of Golan, saying his words were twisted in an attempt to “politically damage the IDF and its officers”.

Israel’s opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog praised Gen Golan as a courageous commander. “The crazies who will now start screaming against him should know: this is what morality and responsibility sound like.”

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz said: “Golan’s statement was poignant and brave. Neither the left nor the right have a monopoly on ethics.”