Simcha Goldin, whose son Hadar was killed in action during Israel’s 2014 war against Hamas in Gaza, on Monday slammed an Army Radio talk show host who compared the feelings of Jewish and Palestinian mothers who have lost sons in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Goldin said Israeli soldiers should consider whether to continue listening to the radio station, which is operated by the army. He was speaking from the US, where he and his wife Lea are meeting with officials from Congress, the United Nations and the Jewish community to press for Hamas to release Hadar’s body and that of fellow soldier Oron Shaul, also killed during Operation Protective Edge.
Razi Barkai, who lost his own brother during his military service decades ago, was interviewing Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Sunday about the latter’s opposition to returning the bodies of Palestinian attackers to their families, for fear their funerals could serve as stages for incitement to further attacks.
In an apparent reference to the two dead soldiers, Barkai said: “Imagine Israeli families — and sadly we know cases like that, Protective Edge [the 50-day war with Gaza in 2014] for example, waiting and waiting for the bodies of their loved ones to return.”
“That’s the comparison you’re making?” Erdan shot back.
Barkai tried to clarify that he was referring to the “feelings of the families” in the context of whether retaining Palestinian bodies would aggravate or calm the situation.
“The comparison is irrelevant,” Erdan said.
On Monday, the radio station invited Goldin for a telephone interview and brought Barkai into the studio without telling Goldin in advance.
“We’re in a struggle to convince the world that there are huge differences between us and our enemies,” Goldin said in an emotional confrontation with Barkai. “On Army Radio, Razi Barkai compares the feelings of the Shaul and Goldin families with those of the families of terrorist murderers. What you said to the public security minister cannot be understood otherwise.”
Barkai defended himself by saying that he was simply drawing a comparison between parents who had lost children.
“The only comparison was between the feelings of the bereaved mother,” he said. “From the point of view of the feelings of a bereaved Palestinian mother and a bereaved Jewish mother, I don’t think there’s a difference. If I hurt you, then I expressed myself unsuccessfully .”
Goldin retorted, “IDF soldiers need to decide whether they want to continue listening to this radio station. You were a soldier in the IDF, you’ve worked for Army Radio for years; you can’t say things like this. And your apology isn’t an apology. I don’t think that any bereaved family could accept it.”
The interviewer then intervened to say Barkai himself was a bereaved brother, that there was no need to explain the importance of bereavement to him, and that he was not “the right address” for such a criticism.
“Razi is exactly the address,”Goldin shot back. “I don’t think he apologized from the heart and that’s very serious.”
The Goldin and Shaul families in Israel earlier demanded that Barkai be suspended for what what he had said.
In letter to Army Radio head Yaron Dekel and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, a copy of which was also sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the families said Sunday that they were outraged that the radio station could compare their sons, “heroes of Israel” who defended the state during the war, to “accursed terrorists” whose aim was to murder innocent people and whose families intended to bury them as heroes and martyrs.
“Has Army Radio renounced some of the best sons of the Israel Defense Forces? Has the solidarity ended? Is there no limit to the cynical use of us, the bereaved families, and our sons?” the letter said.
The families wrote that attackers’ bodies should not be returned until the bodies of their own sons were released to them for burial. Not only did Barkai not raise that point, their letter said, but he displayed “great sympathy” for the terrorists’ families and their feelings.
They called on Dekel to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and to suspend Barkai until it had been concluded, and for Barkai to issue a public apology.
“Clearly no comparison was made between IDF soldiers and the murderers of soldiers and citizens,” Army Radio said in response. “Razi asked Minister Erdan whether two mothers from the two sides of the conflict didn’t feel the same pain for the loss of their sons.” The station apologized if Barkai’s question was “misunderstood.”
During the interview, Erdan reasserted his willingness to release terrorists’ bodies if their families promised to conduct the burials during the night and with few participants, to prevent them becoming public celebrations.