Netanyahu criticises general over Holocaust remarks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 8, 2016.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 8, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (May 8) criticised the deputy head of Israel's armed forces for remarks appearing to compare contemporary Israeli society to Nazi Germany.

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

"They do injustice to Israeli society and cause a belittling of the Holocaust," the Israeli leader added.

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

In an address delivered on May 4, the eve of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day, Major-General Yair Golan said the commemoration "must bring us to reflect deeply on the nature of man, even when that man is ourselves".

"If there is something that frightens me with the memory of the Holocaust, 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," he said.

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

The chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Gadi Eisenkot, angered politicians in February with remarks warning young soldiers not to use excessive force in subduing suspected Palestinian assailants.

A wave of unrest that erupted in October has so far killed 203 Palestinians and 28 Israelis.

Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, Israeli authorities say.

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

In March an Israeli soldier was caught on video shooting to death a wounded Palestinian assailant, an incident condemned by a senior United Nations official as "gruesome, immoral and unjust." The soldier, an infantry sergeant, has been charged with manslaughter.

And there have been concerns about civilian mobs attacking people they deem suspicious.

Notable was a case in October, when an Eritrean immigrant was shot by a security guard at a bus station after being mistaken for an Arab assailant in an attack that killed an Israeli soldier.

Footage of the man bleeding as an irate crowd rained blows on his head and body prompted soul searching among some Israelis over their response to a wave of attacks as well as their treatment of African migrants.