IDF Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan gives a speech at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak in central Israel.
(photo credit: ASSAF SHILO / ISRAEL SUN)
Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay came out in support on Saturday of the controversial statement that Major General Yair Golan made on Holocaust Memorial Day comparing present day Israel to Germany in the 1930s.
After Golan was harshly criticized for drawing comparisons between Israel today and Germany in the 1930s in his speech given in a service intended to honor and memorialize the Holocaust, MK Gabbay came out in support of him on Saturday.
Gabbay pointed out that "Major-General Golan has enough perspective to be granted our attention without everyone pouncing on him. The harsh criticism is out of place. There is nothing similar between Israel today and what happened in the Holocaust, but there is definitely the budding signs of nationalism and racism that is reminiscent of Germany in the 1920s and 30s."
Gabbay also stated that he believes that Golan's comments were "meant in reference to remarks about the separation of hospital maternity wards made by MK Bezalel Smotrich.
MK Yael German of Yesh Atid also expressed her support of Golan at an event in Ramat Gan. "What the Major-General tried to say was that on Holocaust Memorial Day we need to evaluate ourselves and be careful not to turn into animals. We need to refrain from violence and safeguard on our value," German said. "In my opinion, Golan was not making a comparison to Nazi Germany because we are not headed in that direction."
German added that she believed that Golan's warning to be careful not to deteriorate into moral corruption was a reference to MK Smotrich's comments on the segregation of maternity wards in hospitals. "The suggestion that there should be separate maternity wards for Jews and Arabs is unethical. We live here with minorities, we ourselves are a minority," said German.
"There are many minorities here, not just Arabs-- Ethiopians, the gay community, differently-abled persons, the elderly-- and it is so easy to exclude and discriminate against any one of these groups. Smotrich's comments were horrible."
Golan’s speech and the reaction to it has dominated the public discourse in the last week.
Elements of Golan's speech drew so much harsh criticism that in some cases, overshadowed the actual meaning of Holocaust Remembrance Day. "The Holocaust should bring us to ponder our public lives and, furthermore, it must lead anyone who is capable of taking public responsibility to do so, because if there is one thing that is scary in remembering the Holocaust, it is noticing horrific processes which developed in Europe – particularly in Germany – 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding remnants of that here among us in the year 2016,” was the section of Golan’s speech that sparked the controversy," Golan said in his speech.
Golan said he did not mean to compare Israel or the IDF to the Nazis. Yet the Nazis fall into the time frame he discussed. Even accepting his clarification, “Germany 70, 80, 90 years ago” was just too close for comfort to a Nazi comparison for many, especially on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we’re mourning the six million Jews they murdered. The Holocaust is still an open wound for Jews around the world, and anything close to cheapening its memory is throwing salt in that wound.Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.