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Dutch citizen files suit against Israeli commanders for attack on family home during 2014 Gaza war

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Ismail Zeyada, a Dutch citizen of Palestinian origin, has started a civil lawsuit holding two Israeli commanders responsible for the attack on his family home in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. Six of Ziada’s family members were killed in the July 2014 attack: his mother (70), three of his brothers, his sister-in-law and a 12-year old nephew. One of two guests were also killed. The family home was located in Al-Burayj, a Palestinian refugee camp in central Gaza.

The commanders are Benny Gantz, chief of staff during the operation, and Air Force commander Amir Eshel. Last Monday a writ of summons was sent to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Both men have six weeks to accept liability and settle the case with Zeyada. Assuming this will not happen, the case will be brought before a Dutch civil court, that will have to judge if it has jurisdiction in this matter.

Zeyada’s attorney, well-known human rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, points out that there are solid arguments to be made why a Dutch civil judge should accept the case. Most important is the fact that Zeyada, as with most Palestinians, has no access to the Israeli legal system where the case belongs in the first place. Secondly, Israel already dealt with the Zeyada case – under military law – judging that the five-story family house was in fact an “active command and control center” for Hamas. Zegveld is straight forward about that argument: ‘The issue is that you can’t bomb a house inhabited by civilians. Deliberately killing six of them, without necessity, is considered a war crime.’

It should be noted that a total of 18,000 private houses were destroyed during Operation Protective Edge.

News about the Zeyada case broke last Tuesday in the Dutch television program Brandpunt. Part of the program, titled ‘In Search of Justice’, was shot on location in Gaza where Ismail Zeyada’s brother Hasan, a psychologist working with traumatized children, still lives. In the program witnesses of the attack explain that there was nothing military-related going on in the family home even though one of the killed brothers was an active member of Hamas; he was found under the rubble in his underwear. The killed guest, paying a visit to the Zeyada family, was also a member of Hamas. This is the scene described by Israel as an active Hamas command center – and as a legitimate reason to blow the house apart, including its civilian residents.

Attorney Zegveld summarizes: ‘More than two thousand Palestinians were killed in fifty days. The standard narrative is that all these people were supposedly in the direct vicinity of terrorists, so in order [for Israel] to win the war they all had to die.’ Zegveld says it’s time that Israel is called to account for these practices, and sees the Zeyada case as a small but significant step toward that goal. She calls the case unique – the first time Israeli military commanders are being kept responsible for their acts in a civil court case.

It’s not the first time the Zeyada case made headlines. In August 2014, just weeks after the fatal attack on the Zeyada house, a 91-year old Dutchman called Henk Zanoli returned his Yad Vashem medal, awarded to him for hiding a Jewish boy during the Second World War. Zanoli, a relative of Ismail Zeyada’s wife, protested the hypocrisy of honoring him as ‘The Righteous Among The Nations’ for saving one jewish life, while taking the lives of six of his Palestinian family members.

Allard de Rooi

Allard de Rooi is an experienced Dutch analyst and writer on Israel/Palestine who presently works for Dutch NGO The Rights Forum. He was the leader of the Dutch movement against the Iraq War, that successfully pressed the Dutch government into a full-scale inquiry about the Dutch support for that war.

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7 Responses

  1. Ossinev on June 23, 2017, 2:35 pm

    “Secondly, Israel already dealt with the Zeyada case – under military law – judging that the five-story family house was in fact an “active command and control center” for Hamas”

    Just like the King David Hotel was an ” active command and control centre” for the British Mandate Authorities and therefore fair game for that saintly little terrorist Begin.

    Well I suppose the flip side of the coin following Zio logic is that all of Zioland is an “active command and control centre ” since virtually every home/building/location has a” most moral” occupant and therefore following a 60 second Hamas “military law” review a la IDF any blame for civilian casualties as a result of their can be discounted.

    Irgun = Terrorists at war with the British / Hamas = Resistance Fighters at war with the Zios.

    • oldgeezer on July 5, 2017, 3:29 pm

      Israeli politicians make it quite clear thaf settlements and settlers are part of the state defense and on the front lines. So command and control argument isn’t even needed.

      Of course they also whine and cry about how their uniformed terrorists are innocents.

      Bull crap. Palestinians have the right to self defense against the rogue state of Israel.

  2. annie on June 23, 2017, 9:33 pm

    that would be fantastic if the dutch civil judge accepted the case. crossing my fingers.
    thanks for the article!

  3. JosephA on June 24, 2017, 10:41 pm

    I think it’s about time the world had a reality check on this most serious matter.

  4. AAG on June 25, 2017, 4:21 pm

    (From August 2014) Dutch nonagenarian returns Righteous Among the Nations medal after six relatives killed in Gaza

  5. shaun patrick on June 26, 2017, 6:10 am

    No other country on the planet could kill over 500 children in three weeks and and not be held responsible by the international community. The USA accuses Cuba, Iran and North Korea of human rights violations and punishes them for this and none of them has come close to the atrocities committed by Israel in just three weeks in Gaza. 18,000 homes destroyed, as well. The Israeli loss is even bigger, the destruction of its national conscience and the moral compass of its people.

  6. Elizabeth Block on July 5, 2017, 2:38 pm

    It will be interesting to see what Israel, which is suing the wife and children of a man who killed Israeli soldiers, does with this suit. Any guesses?

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