Major General Yair Golan, speaking at a Holocaust remembrance day ceremony at a kibbutz in central Israel, said: “If there is something that frightens me in Holocaust remembrance, it is ghastly trends that took place in Europe in general, and in Germany specifically, 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding a sign of them here among us, today in 2016.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett called on Golan to correct his statement. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said he was “confused.”
The Israeli military said Maj Gen Golan did not intend to compare Israel and its army to “the horrors” of Germany 70 years ago.
“This is an absurd and baseless comparison that he never would have made and it was never his intention to criticise the Israeli government,” the Israel Defence Forces said in a statement. “The IDF holds itself to high standards of conduct and holds the value of human life as a guiding value.”
Israel was marking its annual Holocaust remembrance day, in memory of the six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.
Ceremonies were held around the country, including a main ceremony at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended.
Maj Gen Golan spoke at the Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, a museum and seminar centre dedicated to discussing the significance of the Holocaust in contemporary society and culture.
He made reference to a case in March in which a soldier was charged with manslaughter for shooting a Palestinian attacker as he lay wounded on the ground in the West Bank, saying “not everything we do is right” but that Israel’s army does not cover up “problematic activity”.
Centre-left opposition leader Isaac Herzog called Maj Gen Golan brave. “This is what ethics and responsibility sound like,” he said.