IDF Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan gives a speech at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak in central Israel.
(photo credit: ASSAF SHILO / ISRAEL SUN)
Facing a backlash from right-wing politicians and social media users for comments made during ceremonies marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, the army's deputy chief of staff sought to clarify on Thursday that he had no intention of comparing Israel or the IDF with Nazi Germany.
The brouhaha was ignited on Wednesday evening by Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, who said during a speech at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak that he had noticed "horrific trends" in present-day Israel that were reminiscent of what took place in the period just before the ascent of the Third Reich.
"I had no intention of comparing the IDF and the State of Israel with things that went on during the Nazi period," the officer is quoted as saying by Army Radio. "The comparison is absurd and lacks any foundation, and there was no intent to draw such a parallel or to criticize the civilian leadership."
Education Minister Naftali Bennett late Wednesday called on the deputy chief of staff to "correct" his statements.
In a brief comment which was posted on his Twitter account, Bennett wrote: "Just before Holocaust deniers take these errant words [spoken by Golan] and make them part of their banners; Just before our soldiers are compared to Nazis, God forbid, with legitimacy [from the deputy chief of staff]; the deputy chief of staff erred. He should immediately correct [his remarks]."
Bennett's colleague, Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich, took to Twitter and denounced Golan.
"What frightens me are distorted, baseless comparisons that injure the memory of the Holocaust, particularly when they are made by important people like the deputy chief of staff," Smotrich tweeted.
Golan found a sympathetic ear on the center-left, with Zionist Union head and opposition chief Isaac Herzog praising him for his comments.
On his Twitter account, Herzog wrote: "The deputy chief of staff is a courageous commander. The disturbed people who will now begin to scream against him need to know: This is how morality and responsibility sound. We will not be frightened by screams and epithets, and we will continue to back the IDF and its commanders."