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Man Returns Yad Vashem Medal Over Gaza War

Dutch Righteous Among the Nations cited death of relatives in Israeli strikes

Isabel Fattal
August 15, 2014
Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel(Yad Vashem)
Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel(Yad Vashem)

In 2011, Henk Zanoli received Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations award for saving a Jewish child during the Nazi occupation of Holland. On Monday, Haaretz reports, the 91-year-old Dutch attorney returned the medal and certificate given to him by the Israeli institution, citing the death of six of his relatives in an Israeli air strike in Gaza.

Zanoli and his late mother, Johana Zanoli-Smit, received the medal for hiding Elhanan Pinto, born in 1932, in their home from the spring of 1943 until Holland’s liberation in 1945.

On July 20, a bomb from an Israeli fighter jet hit the home of Zanoli’s great-niece. The bomb killed her, three of her sons, and the wife and 12-year-old son of one of these sons, as well as a friend who was visiting the family that day. After learning of the tragedy, Zanoli sent his Righteous Among the Nations to the Israeli Embassy in The Hague, where he had received the title three years earlier.

Zanoli attached a letter to Haim Divon, the Israeli Ambassador to the Netherlands, in which 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.”

Isabel Fattal, a former intern at Tablet Magazine, attends Wesleyan University.