A Holocaust Remembrance Day to remember
Hebrew media review

A Holocaust Remembrance Day to remember

Controversial remarks by IDF deputy chief of staff still ring loudly in the Hebrew-language press a day later

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Yair Golan lays a wreath at a memorial during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 5, 2016. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool)
Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Yair Golan lays a wreath at a memorial during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 5, 2016. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool)

Holocaust Remembrance Day has come and gone, and the major Hebrew-language newspapers seem relieved that they can once again focus on burning issues and controversies without having to present a solemn face in honor of the Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazi regime.

Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel Hayom and Haaretz all rehash yesterday’s top story about a senior IDF officer who seemed to compare some trends taking place currently in Israeli society to the situation in pre-war Germany.

“If there is something that frightens me in the memory of the Holocaust, it is identifying horrifying processes that occurred in Europe… 70, 80 and 90 years ago and finding evidence of their existence here in our midst, today, in 2016,” IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan said. But while Holocaust Remembrance Day had previously prevented the papers’ editors of playing up the comments and stirring a fiery debate, now the gloves come off, and Golan is scrutinized — or praised — without filters.

Israel Hayom is concerned about Israel’s image in the wake of the senior officer’s comments, and looks outwards, to the international media, which it views as having had a “party” with Golan’s words. The daily, which takes the international community’s perceived anti-Israel bias as a given, is concerned primarily with the effect Golan’s remarks had on Israel’s standing in the eyes of the world. “The foreign press quoted extensively the comparison made by the general between what is happening in the country and what has happened in Germany,” Israel Hayom writes.

Israel Hayom columnist Dror Eydar says Golan scored an “own goal” since while the senior IDF officer’s heart may have been in the right place when he criticized Israeli society, the general should have nevertheless anticipated that his words would be exploited by entities who wish ill upon the Jewish state.

“Yesterday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Jews were busy with internal wars, and the daughters of the Philistines rejoiced,” Eydar writes. “Right after [Golan’s] speech, our enemies began spreading throughout the world that ‘Israeli general Yair Golan compared Israel to Nazi Germany,’ and a stone cast into a well, even a thousand wise men can not retrieve.” A compilation of headlines from the Guardian, the New York Times and the Independent adorn the space above Eydar’s column.

It should be noted that following criticism of the IDF officer’s comments by senior politicians as well as an outcry on social media, Golan said Thursday that his speech was not meant to compare the actions of the IDF and the State of Israel with those of the Nazis.

“It is an absurd and baseless comparison and I had no intention whatsoever of drawing any sort of parallel or to criticize the national leadership,” Golan said in a statement communicated by the IDF spokesman’s department. “The IDF is a moral army that respects the rules of engagement and protects human dignity.”

In Yedioth Ahronoth, Israeli author Etgar Keret is much more sympathetic to Golan, as he explains that there is more than one lesson that can be learned from the atrocities and horrors of the Holocaust.

“[Golan] noted that a nation that experienced on its flesh the dangers hidden in moral deterioration, must be wary, attentive and critical in order to respect its past and assure its future,” writes Keret. “[But] the fact that Golan identified in Israeli society ‘self-destructive buddings on the route to moral deterioration’ raised the ire of many.”

Keret concludes that as a son of a Holocaust survivor himself, he wishes to ask of Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who vocally criticized Golan and demanded that he apologize for his remarks, to not exclude anyone from drawing conclusions about the Holocaust, even if their opinions differ from those of the Jewish Home party leader.

The editorial column of Haaretz goes even further than Keret, asserting that Golan deserves to be saluted for his “brave words” on Israeli society rather than be subject to condemnation. “We must recognize that society and state, and yes, the army and security organizations, have been undergoing over the past years severe processes that might push Israel to a new and dangerous reality.”

The editorial goes on to determine that the “public discourse in Israel has in those years become violent and rapacious, incited by the government, with common and frequent showings of pre-fascist phenomena.”

Back to Yedioth, which, keeping in its tradition of attacking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at any possible turn, dedicates no small portion of its Friday headlines to the upcoming State Comptroller report over the Israeli leadership’s apparent underperformance during the war in Gaza in the summer of 2014. In the report, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are accused of not updating the security cabinet in real time of the imminent threat of war with the Hamas in the Gaza Strip and not discussing the grave threat of the terror group’s attack tunnels, according to Hebrew media sources who read the draft report.

Yedioth has a field day with the information, with analyst Shimon Shiffer saying that the report should raise no less than “dread” among Israel’s public. “We do not have to wait for the full report in order to understand that the security establishment had no comprehensive plan to deal with the attack tunnels which led and lead towards us before and after Operation Protective Edge.”

Netanyahu and Ya’alon hit back at the comptroller on Thursday evening, dismissing the report as “not serious.”

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