A 91-year-old Dutch man returned an honorary medal he received from Israel for sheltering a Jew from the Nazis after six relatives were killed in an airstrike during the Gaza conflict, Agence France-Presse reported Friday.
An Israeli F-16 shelled Henk Zanoli’s great niece’s home in Gaza, killing everyone inside.
Zanoli, a retired lawyer, returned the Israeli Righteous Among the Nations medal earlier this week along with a letter addressed to the Israeli ambassador in the Hague.
“It is with great sorrow that I am herewith returning the medal I received as an honor and a token of appreciation from the State of Israel for the efforts and risks taken by my mother and her family in saving the life of a Jewish boy during the German occupation," Zanoli said in the letter.
In the letter, he told the ambassador the bomb dropped by the Israeli military on July 20 during its massive Gaza offensive flattened a four-storey building which housed his relatives at the Bureij Refugee Camp.
“The great-great grandchildren of my mother have lost their grandmother, three uncles, an aunt and a cousin at the hands of the Israeli military,” Zanoli said in the letter, published by Israeli newspaper Haaretz and widely circulated in the Dutch media.
“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,” Zanoli said.
Too frail to deliver the letter in person, Zanoli instead sent it with the medal to the Israeli embassy in The Hague, where he received the accolade three years ago.
“For me to hold on to the honor granted to me by the State of Israel under these circumstances, would be an insult... to those in my family, four generations on, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza,” Zanoli said.
Zanoli’s family were outspoken opponents of the invading Nazis and his father was murdered in the Mauthausen concentration camp.
His own brother-in-law was executed in the dunes outside The Hague for being in the Dutch Resistance.
In 2011 the Israeli authorities declared Henk Zanoli ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ – a title bestowed upon non-Jews who helped save Jews from the Holocaust. During the Nazi occupation of Holland Mr Zanoli’s family had helped shelter a young boy until the Allied liberation in 1945.
Almost 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in Israel’s offensive on the blockaded Gaza Strip, aimed at ending militant rocket fire.
“The actions of your state in Gaza these days have already resulted in serious accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Zanoli addressed the ambassador.
“As a retired lawyer, it would be no surprise to me that these accusations could lead to possible convictions if true and un-politicized justice is able to have its course... what happened to our kin in Gaza will no doubt be brought to the table at such a time as well.”
The Israeli Embassy in The Hague on Friday said it was “familiar with the issue,” but declined to comment.