IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The deputy chief of the army seemed to be trying to compete with his boss in the arena of supplying Israel’s enemies with political ammunition last week. Yes, on Wednesday evening Maj. Gen. Yair Golan went above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak, and outranked IDF Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot in the battlefield of ideas on the world stage. Unfortunately, these ideas all involve delegitimizing the Jewish state and blackening its reputation.
While Eisenkot has taken a few recent opportunities to make the army that he leads sound as though it has been on a slippery slope to being deserving of the slurs it incurs from Palestinian terrorists and Western leftists, Golan simply cocked his weapon, aimed and fired at Israeli society as a whole.
During a speech he delivered on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Golan said: “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.”
Lest one imagine for a split second that Golan was referring to the actual signs of pre-Nazi Germany rearing their ugly heads in Europe of late, rest assured that the IDF bigwig was doing no such thing. On the contrary, he was talking about imaginary “revolting processes” occurring in the Jewish state.
He said 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. There is nothing easier than hating the stranger, nothing easier than to stir fears and intimidate. There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously. On Holocaust Remembrance Day we ought to discuss our ability to uproot the seeds of intolerance, violence, self-destruction and moral deterioration.”
He then went on to assert that “it’s essential” for Holocaust Remembrance Day to be a national day of atonement, the way Yom Kippur is a religious one.
This breast-beating, he said, “ought to include unsettling issues,” such as the abuse of weapons by soldiers. This was a not-so-veiled reference to the controversy surrounding the manslaughter indictment of Sgt. Elor Azaria, who killed a subdued Palestinian terrorist in Hebron on March 24.
“A few weeks ago, the public began to debate purity of arms,” Golan said. “The misuse of weapons and harm to purity of arms have occurred in the history of the IDF since its establishment. The IDF has always taken pride in its ability to investigate difficult events impartially and to take full responsibility for what is good, but also for what is bad and unacceptable.”
Indeed. So where is the need for penitence on Israel’s part? If Golan had an answer, he didn’t offer it. Instead, he concluded with a statement that, if anything, illustrated why Israelis of all people have no need to engage in “atonement” for the sins to which he was alluding. You know, the kind that led to Auschwitz and Treblinka.
“We didn’t justify ourselves, cover up, smooth things over, dismiss with a wink or make excuses,” he assured.
“Our path was always that of truth and taking responsibility, even when the truth is difficult and the responsibility weighty. We believe very much in the justice of our path, but not everything we do is just. We trust the IDF’s moral standards as an organization, but we do not ignore individual deviations.”
It is this last remark that should have been the focus of Golan’s speech. Any calls for a collective mea culpa should have been directed exclusively and forcefully at the individuals and groups abroad who are enabling, supporting and promoting anti-Semitism – by way of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel at campuses across the West; through old-style Jew-hatred on social media; to the British Labour Party, so many of whose members have been spewing the sort of unthinkable vitriol that became taboo in Europe after World War II; and last but certainly not least, through global jihad committed by radical Islamists within and surrounding Israel’s borders.
It is the job of the IDF brass to combat the latter for the security of Israel’s citizens, not to imperil us by emboldening those who seek to undermine our very existence.
Golan is the one who really ought to be soul-searching right now – not by denying what he said, but by examining what possessed him to make such a vile comparison in the first place, and then by retracting it and apologizing for making a mockery out of Holocaust commemoration.
The writer is the managing editor of The Algemeiner and a columnist at Israel Hayom.