Israeli General: Holocaust Signs “Among Us Today”

by James M. Wallyair-golan

Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Deputy Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, delivered a public address on the eve of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He spoke at Israel’s Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies, which is located at Tel Yitzak Kibbutz.

The General could not have chosen a more auspicious location for what Ha’aretz described as an “unusual speech”.

Four days later, General Golan (above, right) was “harshly criticized” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, Ha’aretz reported, told Sunday’s cabinet meeting that Golan’s remarks “were outrageous, unfounded and they wronged Israeli society”.

Ha’aretz‘ report on the Golan speech began:

In an unusual speech in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday evening, IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Yair Golan likened recent developments in Israeli society to processes that unfolded in Europe before the Holocaust.

As any critic of Israeli policies quickly discovers, linking Israel today with any reference to Nazi Germany is strictly forbidden by Israel’s propaganda machine.

This did not deter Major General Yair Golan, who declared in his Holocaust Eve speech:

If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.

Golan said that the Holocaust “must make us think deeply about the responsibility of leadership, the quality of society, and it must lead us to fundamental thinking about how we, here and now, treat the stranger, the orphan and the widow, and all who are like them.”

Then with a blazing passion that sounded more like a Hebrew prophet than a Major General, he added,

There is nothing easier than hating the stranger, nothing easier than to stir fears and intimidate. There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously. On Holocaust Remembrance Day we ought to discuss our ability to uproot the seeds of intolerance, violence, self-destruction and moral deterioration.

Just as Yom Kippur is a day for personal atonement, it ought to be and in fact it’s actually essential  for Holocaust Remembrance Day to be a national day of atonement.

Major General Golan did not travel this road alone.

Four days after Golan’s Holocaust Day Eve speech, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon spoke at Israel’s Memorial Day ceremony to further “his vociferous public dispute with the rest of the right-wing figures and political leaders in Israel”.

In his speech, he said, “Woe to us if we lose our way from our hallowed values that have accompanied us for generations. Compromising these values may well create a slippery slope to the abyss.”

Major General Golan, now 54, is a veteran IDF leader. He assumed command of the Israel Northern Command in July, 2011. He became IDF Deputy Chief of General Staff in December 2014.

Richard Falk, long-time U.S. peace activist and veteran of Middle East United Nations diplomacy, was inspired by General Golan’s speech to post these strong words of support: 

I write these words as.  .  . an expression of appreciation for the Holocaust Remembrance Day speech earlier this month of Major General Yair Golan, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Speaking at Tel Yitzak Kibbutz, where the Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies is located, General Golan urged that this very special day of observance in Israel be treated as an occasion for soul-searching.

He placed this call in an extraordinary context by suggesting that conditions in Israel were disturbing in ways relevant to the Holocaust, horror of horrors.

Focused almost exclusively on politics during an American presidential race, we lose sight of the potential for peace and justice among military leaders, who know the cost of war.

As Major General Golan reminds us: There is nothing easier than hating the stranger, nothing easier than to stir fears and intimidate. There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously.”

It is never too late for some serious political soul searching in a world where we have discovered again and again, that war is never the answer.

The picture of General Golan, above, is from the  Israeli Defense Force. 

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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13 Responses to Israeli General: Holocaust Signs “Among Us Today”

  1. Mike Caggiano says:

    Wow, It’s impressive when someone speaks truth to power but when power speaks truth it’s more amazing yet. Bravo.

  2. Pauline Coffman says:

    Jim, Thank you for lifting up this story. I had missed it. It is so good to know there are future leaders in Israel that see the humanity of all those who live there.

  3. Reblogged this on refusingtobeenemiesthebook and commented:
    This article goes on to point out: As Major General Golan reminds us: “There is nothing easier than hating the stranger, nothing easier than to stir fears and intimidate. There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously.”

  4. Amazing: a “think deeply” general and Jew…very close to if not an oxymoron.

    Thanks for this post, Jim. We need many more than one grain of sand in the human ocean even to begin to sort out this Zionist enterprise of menace and evil. But every grain is welcome…to all morals-driven humans, but especially to the Palestinian people, bless them.

  5. Jack Graham says:

    There is nothing more righteous than a righteous Jew. Israel has been hijacked by criminals.

  6. says:

    Thanks Jim. Apparently Golan ‘converted’ from a leftist to a conservative years ago. But he is of that ever diminishing breed of true conservatives who are not of the neo- variety, who maintain strong moral values rather than the primacy of power, for whom military might is not right but defensive.

    I’m afraid in the US, there is no such presumptive nominee.

  7. Samia Khoury says:

    Thank you Jim for quoting Major General Golan in your article. Indeed it is refreshing to hear his words amidst all the brutality that encompasses the region living under a military occupation that has been haunting us for the last forty nine years. We have heard courageous and honest Israeli voices before so it was not surprising for PM Netanyahu to be enraged and to harshly criticize Golan’s statement especially during the holocaust memorial, which has been used and abused to justify that brutality and the ongoing dispossession of the Palestinians. Furthermore Moshe Ya’alon hit as well on another sensitive issue “hallowed values” that Israel brags about and shares with the USA. Indeed “It is never too late for some serious political soul searching in a world where we have discovered again and again, that war is never the answer.”

  8. Jane Clark says:

    Netanyahu sees a danger behind every bush, as McCarthy saw a communist behind every rock and ruined so many lives because of it. It is refreshing to hear the level heads of Israeli Generals, who are the ones that suffer the most of endless wars and aggression while the Politicians just keep scaring everyone to death to vote for them…like a little boy crying wolf all the time

  9. J. Martin Bailey says:

    The information I am receiving from friends both in Israel and Palestine suggests that there are, indeed, prophets who are speaking out in the lands of the Bible. In terms of the conflicts between and within Israel and Palestine, it seems that we are increasingly dependent on sources like Jim Wall for clear and honest information. I believe our task, increasingly, is to use the social and religious media to see that thoughtful Americans can listen to the real prophets in the region today.

  10. Patricia says:

    We Americans need to change AMERICA dialogue on the subject of ISRAEL. We need to pay attention to this critical election for President, plus those running for congress. Enough of AIPAC!

  11. oldkahuna says:

    Every country has its “truth speakers.” In most countries the general populace does not hear. Which raises the questions: HOW are WE hearing with our ears? HOW are WE seeing with our eyes?
    “The Other” haunts all who see and hear.

  12. Betty Likis says:

    Thanks for reporting this. We too seldom hear such opinions from Jews in Israel. (Does the New York Times know about this? If they do, they probably wouldn’t report it.)

  13. Fred Bisharat says:

    It is time for all humanity, especially those in America who fund wars all over the globe, through the actions of their irresponsible governments to not only heed such wake up calls but to bind all of us together to act and regain our sanity and our place as an “alert people,” with voices that shake up our politicians to the core., and change their direction to fit our calling. My respects for Mr. Golan for his wonderful words that will be followed by proper actions by those who will heed his words.

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