Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) deputy chief of staff, has come under fire for drawing a parallel between the 1930s Germany and present-day Israel. Golan’s comments were made Wednesday during an event to mark the Holocaust Remembrance Day — an annual event that commemorates the 6 million Jews killed by Nazis.
“If there's something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it's the recognition of the revolting 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 in his speech at the Tel Yitzhak kibbutz in central Israel, adding that the holocaust “must make us think deeply about the responsibility of leadership, the quality of society, and it must lead us to fundamental thinking about how we, here and now, treat the stranger, the orphan and the widow, and all who are like them.”
Golan’s comments were met with immediate and fierce criticism from Israeli politicians, and Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett urged him to “rectify” his error.
On Thursday, Golan appeared to backtrack, insisting that he had not intended to compare Israel and Nazi Germany.
“It is an absurd and baseless comparison and I had no intention whatsoever to draw any sort of parallel or to criticize the national leadership,” Golan reportedly said in a statement released Thursday. “The IDF is a moral army that respects the rules of engagement and protects human dignity.”
Golan’s comments come at a time when debate over the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is intensifying. In recent weeks, the Labour Party in the U.K. has come under increasing criticism for the perceived rise of anti-Semitism within its ranks. Last week, Naz Shah, Labour's member of Parliament for Bradford West, was suspended from the party for a Facebook post that suggested that the U.S. should accommodate Israel as the country’s 51st state so that Palestinians can “get their life and their land back.”
A few days later, former London mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended for defending Shah and suggesting that Hitler supported Zionism before the Holocaust.
“Today, it is not politically correct to be anti-Semitic but being anti-Israeli is acceptable,” Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who once called Palestinian children “little snakes” and said that Israel was at war with “the Palestinian people,” told the Washington Post Wednesday. “In the past, we saw European leaders speaking against the Jews. Now, we see them speaking against Israel. It is the same anti-Semitism of blood libels, spreading lies, distorting reality and brainwashing people into hating Israel and the Jews.”