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Netanyahu slams general for Holocaust comment

May 9, 2016

A general's comments that there are worrying trends of intolerance in Israel reminiscent of Nazi Germany have been called "outrageous" by the Israeli prime minister. However, the soldier's words also found some support.

Holocaust survivors and their relatives lay wreaths next to the names of former concentration camps during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem
Image: Reuters/S. Scheiner

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is lashing out at a top Israeli general, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, for saying that in today's Israel there are "nauseating processes" reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

During the government's weekly cabinet meeting Netanyahu described the general's comments as outrageous and said, "they cause harm to Israel and cheapen the Holocaust."

"The comparison drawn in the words of the deputy chief of staff regarding events which characterized Nazi Germany 80 years ago is outrageous," said Netanyahu.

"The deputy chief of staff is an outstanding officer, but his remarks on this issue were utterly mistaken and unacceptable to me," the Israeli leader added.

Golan, the military's deputy chief of staff, quickly won voices of support from the defense minister, military chief and other officials who said Golan was warning of worrying trends in society.

His controversial comments came Wednesday, during a speech on the eve of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day. Golan said the commemoration "must bring us to reflect deeply on the nature of man, even when that man is ourselves."

Echoes of Nazi Germany

"If there is something that frightens me with the memory of the Holocaust," he said, "it is identifying horrifying processes that happened in Europe, and specifically in Germany, 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding testimony to them amongst us, today, in 2016.

"There is, after all, nothing easier and simpler than hating the foreigner... arousing fears and terrifying," he added.

This is not the first time that Israel's right-wing politicians have appeared more militant than top members of Israel's military. In February, chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, angered conservative politicians when he warned young soldiers not to use excessive force in subduing suspected Palestinian assailants.

British Conservative Party politician Eric Pickles (L), Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott MBE (3rd-L), London Mayor Sadiq Khan (C) and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis (R) attend Yom HaShoah, the Jewish Community's Holocaust Remembrance Day, at the Barnet Copthall Stadium on May 8, 2016 in London,
London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attend Holocaust Remembrance Day in LondonImage: Getty Images/J. Taylor

Attacks against Israelis by Palestinians, mostly armed with knives, have frequently been met with deadly force by Israeli security forces in recent months. Twenty-eight Israelis have been killed in such attacks, while more than 200 Palestinian attackers have died during police or military responses.

Human rights groups want Israel to stop using "lethal force" against attackers, and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has accused the Jewish state of carrying out "extrajudicial executions."

bik/rc (AP, AFP, dpa)