What can international pressure do? A lot. The only story people are talking about today is the spectacular story of the Dutch man, 91, who has returned a governmental prize to Israel for his role, and his family’s, in saving a Jewish boy during the Holocaust– after 6 of his relatives were killed in Gaza. “Israel has no idea how thoroughly it has lost international support,” says a liberal Zionist writer, reflecting on the moment.
Amira Hass broke the story.
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.
But Mr Zanoli returned his prize to the Israeli embassy in the Netherlands after hearing that six of his relatives had been killed during an attack on their home in Gaza.
Also reported by Christopher Schuetze and (the wonderful) Ann Barnard in the Times.
Dr. [Ismail] Zeyada said last month that none of his family members were militants. Israel says that it takes precautions to avoid killing civilians, and that Hamas purposely increases civilian casualties by operating in residential neighborhoods. It has offered no information on whether the Zeyada family home was hit purposely, and if so, what the target was and whether it justified a strike that killed six civilians. The military told the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which first reported Mr. Zanoli’s decision, only that it was investigating “all irregular incidents.”
Here are excerpts of the great letter from Zanoli to the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands (available at the Times). Note that Zanoli describes the “ethnic cleansing” at Israel’s foundation, and says the only way out of the “racist… quagmire the Jewish people of Israel have gotten themselves into” is for Israel to give Palestinians equal rights
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…
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.
Ayelet Waldman tweets the story, saying:
I fear Israel has no idea how thoroughly it has lost international support.
Waldman has supported Peace Now, which has largely supported the onslaught on Gaza, including this resentful insight from its regular Israeli analyst on the appointment of a Human Rights Council team to investigate the Gaza slaughter:
That the international community has its own double standard when it comes to Israel’s wars against non-state actors embedded amidst civilians is obvious.
Two elements of this story that will resonate. Most important, Zanoli has done what Barack Obama and J Street could have done if they wanted, but haven’t done– applied international pressure. People always question whether the BDS movement is effective. Well, this gesture is part of that movement; and pressure like this will force Israel to wake up.
Second, the Holocaust happened in Europe. But Israel is its self-appointed adjudicator. How long can that last. Hannah Arendt was concerned about this more than 50 years ago.