A 91-year-old man who, along with his mother, was honoured by Israel for risking their lives to save a Jewish child in Holland during World War II has handed back his medal after six of his extended family were killed in Gaza.
Henk Zanoli and his late mother Johana Zanoli-Smit were named Righteous Among the Nations in 2011 by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum for hiding Jewish child Elhanan Pinto after his parents were killed in a concentration camp.
The Jewish newspaper Haaretz says it was a “double risk because (the family) were already under Nazi scrutiny for having opposed the German occupation”.
Zanoli’s father had been taken to the Dachau concentration camp due to his opposition, dying there in 1945. His brother-in-law was also executed for his advocacy against German occupation, the newspaper reported.
Last week, Zanoli, a former lawyer, wrote an eloquent and moving letter to the Israeli embassy in The Hague, giving back the honour.
On July 20, six members of his great-niece’s family – Angelique Eijpe, a Dutch diplomat whose husband Isma’il Ziadah was born in a refugee camp in central Gaza – were killed after an Israeli fighter jet dropped on a bomb on the family home in al-Bureij.
As Hareetz reported: “The bomb killed the family matriarch, Mufityah, 70; three of her sons, Jamil, Omar and Youssef; Jamil’s wife, Bayan; and their 12-year-old son, Shaaban. The bombing thus orphaned Jamal and Bayan’s other five children, four daughters and a son, while bereaving Omar’s two sons and Youssef’s three sons and a daughter of their fathers. The bombing also killed Mohammad Maqadmeh, who happened to be visiting the family that day.”
In his letter to Ambassador Haim Davon, Zanoli wrote that keeping the award in light of Israel’s recent assault on Gaza would be insulting to his mother’s memory.
“Against this background it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza. Murder carried out by the State of Israel,” he wrote.
“The great- great grandchildren of my mother have lost their [Palestinian] grandmother, three uncles, an aunt and a cousin at the hands of the Israeli army…. 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.”
A member of the Zeyada family – trauma counselor Hassan al-Zeyada, told the New York Times he admired the Zanoli family’s actions during World War II.
He said none of those killed were militants and the Israel Defence Force (IDF) could not confirm to Haaretz whether the house was a target.
“The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit did not answer Haaretz’s questions as to whether the Ziadah home was bombed by mistake, or if not, who in the house was a target and whether the IDF’s legal department considers the death of six civilians to be legitimate collateral damage. Its response said merely that the IDF invests great efforts in trying to avoid civilian casualties, is currently working to investigate all allegations of irregular incidents and will publish its conclusions after this investigation is completed,” Haaretz reported.
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