This tragic story shows the extent that Israel's hard line leaders murderous assault on Gaza has alienated some of its former supporters, and even some of its national heros. Heros millions of non Israelis also admire for their unselfish devotion to a higher justice and their extraordinary courage in the face of unspeakable Nazi brutality during the Holocaust.
Dutch man returns Israeli WWII honour after family killed in Gaza
A 91-year-old Dutch man honoured by Israel for shielding a Jew from the Nazis has handed back his medal after six of his relatives were killed in a Gaza air strike.
Henk Zanoli returned his Righteous Among the Nations award to the Israeli ambassador in The Hague this week after an Israeli F-16 destroyed his great niece's Gaza home, killing all inside.
According to Zanoli's letter addressed to the Israeli ambassador, the bomb dropped by the Israeli military on July 20 during its massive Gaza offensive, flattened a four-storey building at the Bureij Refugee Camp, killing all inside.What could possibly make a whole four story apartment building with everyone in it into a legitimate military target? Yet this is a pattern the IDF repeated over and over again during its punitive assault on Gaza. Clearly little consideration was given to the civilians lives by the IDF's commanders.
Righteous in Holland and Gaza
In 1943, Mr Zanoli escorted an 11-year-old Jewish boy from Amsterdam, Elchanan Pinto, back to the family home in the village of Eemnes, where he and his mother Johanna hid him for the rest of the war. (His father, Henk Senior, had already been sent to a concentration camp for his resistance activities; he would die at Mauthausen.) Mr Pinto subsequently emigrated to Israel. Three years ago, the Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem awarded its "Righteous Among the Nations" medal, given to non-Jews who rescued Jews from the Nazis, to Mr Zanoli and (posthumously) his mother.
On July 20, the Zi'adah family house in al-Bureij was hit by an Israeli bomb, killing six members of the extended family, including the family matriarch, three of her sons, and a 12-year-old grandson. In an elegant and sorrowful letter to Israel's ambassador in The Hague, Mr Zanoli explained that he could not in good conscience keep the Israeli medal.If this heart rending case doesn't wake Israelis up to the injustice of the IDF's Dahiya Doctrine that presumes that the entire population of Gaza as some sort of human infrastructure for Hamas and targets them accordinly, then I don't know what will.
"I understand that in your professional role, in which I am addressing you here, you may not be able to express understanding for my decision. However, I am convinced that at both a personal and human level you will have a profound understanding of the fact that for me to hold on to the honour granted by the State of Israel, under these circumstances, will be both an insult to the memory of my courageous mother who risked her life and that of her children fighting against suppression and for the preservation of human life as well as an insult to those in my family, four generations on, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza at the hands of the State of Israel."It is the style of Mr Zanoli's letter, as much as its content, that is most striking. His graceful acknowledgement of the professional limitations that govern his correspondence with the ambassador seems to come from a different era, the years when the modest, correctly dressed, multilingual members of the Dutch educated class threw themselves into an effort to build a peaceful postwar order. The phrase that animated Jews and Zionists in those years was "never again"; the corresponding Dutch postwar phrase, dat nooit meer, has a more prosaic ring, a sense of simple horror and exhaustion. The dignity and generosity of those postwar generations of Dutch won the country worldwide respect, and encountering them remains such a pleasure that it erases the less wholesome impression some of the Netherlands' more recent politicians have created. Mr Zanoli's voice seems to come straight out of those postwar years, which were also the period when the equally impressive first generation of Israeli leaders were winning Europe and America's support to establish their country as part of the new international order.
This makes it all the more striking to read of the evolution of Mr Zanoli's views on the Israel-Palestine question."After the horror of the holocaust my family strongly supported the Jewish people also with regard to their aspirations to build a national home. Over more than six decades I have however slowly come to realize that the Zionist project had from its beginning a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews. As a consequence, ethnic cleansing took place at the time of the establishment of your state and your state continues to suppress the Palestinian people on the West Bank and in Gaza who live under Israeli occupation since 1967. The actions of your state in Gaza these days have already resulted in serious accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity...The only way out of the quagmire the Jewish people of Israel have gotten themselves into is by granting all living under the control of the State of Israel the same political rights and social and economic rights and opportunities."This is a call for a one-state solution to the Palestine-Israel question, rather than the two-state one still supported by most Europeans. The longer Israel fails to close a deal on a two-state solution, and the more suffering and death its occupation of the West Bank and periodic wars in Gaza inflict on Palestinians, the more it risks convincing Europeans that the very idea of a separate Jewish state is by nature racist and oppressive. This is the prospect of "delegitimisation" about which we wrote earlier this month. The practical consequences for Israel of provoking such European enmity are serious, but the moral consequences are more serious still. Israel has always been a state whose legitimacy is founded on a moral narrative, that of the escape from anti-Semitic persecution, of "never again".