IDF Deputy Chief of Staff caught up in new storm over comments made 10 years ago

Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, who at the time was the commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, said that on balance, it was better to put soldiers at risk than Palestinian civilians.

IDF Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan gives a speech at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak in central Israel (photo credit: ASSAF SHILO / ISRAEL SUN)
IDF Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan gives a speech at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak in central Israel
(photo credit: ASSAF SHILO / ISRAEL SUN)
Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.- Gen. Yair Golan is once again in the headlines. Channel 2 News released a recording from a decade ago, in which Golan, then the commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, was speaking to a group of youths preparing for their IDF service.
“Considering that we are dealing with a civilian population, it is just that we take upon ourselves risks [in the line of duty],” Golan is heard saying, in a recording of his remarks.
“It is unimaginable that in an effort to ensure our soldiers’ safety, we can destroy whole apartment buildings. Killing women, children, uninvolved civilians. Unacceptable. The use of force in civilian areas must always be kept under control, and restricted to the minimum necessary,” he said.
“It is unacceptable to take human life unjustifiably. Therefore, a military unit should take risks in order not to hurt innocent bystanders, but, if the unit is operating in the vicinity where there are only terrorists, then it must act in the safest [to the soldiers] manner possible.”
When asked, “Would you rather your soldiers, or Palestinian civilians, [be safe]?” Golan replied, “The civilians. Morally, you if you are standing in front of a house, you will not kill a 60-year-old woman [because she is an Arab].”
In a question that today echoes the arguments surrounding the case of Sgt. Elor Azaria, the soldier who has been charged with manslaughter for killing an immobilized Palestinian terrorist in Hebron on March 24, a member of the audience asked whether it was fair to assume that even a 60-yearold woman might not be a threat, as she could be wearing an explosives vest.
The general replied, “Not every Palestinian woman is a covert terrorist,” and that he expected IDF commanders to use common sense.
“In some instances, reasonable mistakes are made,” Golan said, but “sometimes there are simply crimes [committed by soldiers].
Unacceptable use of force with the weapon you are given, the weapon you use in the name of the state, to take a human life, we are all created in the image [of God]. We do not have the right to take a life just like that.”
Golan then gave an example for the youths, from his personal experience. “Four soldiers were standing at a checkpoint in the West Bank. A man comes to the checkpoint, and he is removed from his car by the soldiers. He then sees a soldier checking a woman for weapons, touching her body, and this offends his Islamic traditions.”
Explaining how the situation unfolded, Golan explained that the man then ran toward the soldier in order to stop him from touching the Palestinian woman.
“Four soldiers standing opposite one Palestinian. What did they do? They shot him. He was not armed, a man who was not so young, why shoot him? Why end his life?” In the recording, Golan raises his voice, arguing, “I investigated the incident. I know what I am talking about. Do you want to provide a defense? Our people do not make mistakes? You have never made mistakes? Are you released from responsibility for your mistakes? If so, you are a holy congregation. But] you are not a holy congregation, and neither are all our people holy people.
“There was a lieutenant, he was driving recklessly and ended the life of a Palestinian, just like that. What do you want? That we should justify this? This is the nation you want to live in, who kills as if it is nothing? If we want to have any sort of claim of morality before the nations of the world, then we should guard our moral standards very tightly.”
Saying that he did not expect to see an end of the conflict in our time, Golan argued that in recent times the IDF has “been making too many [moral] concessions.”
Commenting on the state of society as a whole, Golan said of the tenure of then-prime minister’s Ehud Olmert’s government, “We are in a period of disorientation. Everyone with eyes can see this. The corruption of the government, and its inability to lead comprehensive social change,” he said.
Golan was recently embroiled in a controversy surrounding remarks he made on Holocaust Remembrance Day, where he said that Israeli society was exhibiting similar trends as those seen in 1930s Germany, before the Nazis took power. He was widely criticized for both the comparison itself and the timing of the comments, but defended by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.