[Marxism] Resisting Nazis, He Saw Need for Israel. Now He Is Its Critic

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Aug 16 07:32:45 MDT 2014

NY Times, August 16 2014
Resisting Nazis, He Saw Need for Israel. Now He Is Its Critic.

THE HAGUE — In 1943, Henk Zanoli took a dangerous train trip, slipping 
past Nazi guards and checkpoints to smuggle a Jewish boy from Amsterdam 
to the Dutch village of Eemnes. There, the Zanoli family, already under 
suspicion for resisting the Nazi occupation, hid the boy in their home 
for two years. The boy would be the only member of his family to survive 
the Holocaust.

Seventy-one years later, on July 20, an Israeli airstrike flattened a 
house in the Gaza Strip, killing six of Mr. Zanoli’s relatives by 
marriage. His grandniece, a Dutch diplomat, is married to a Palestinian 
economist, Ismail Ziadah, who lost three brothers, a sister-in-law, a 
nephew and his father’s first wife in the attack.

On Thursday, Mr. Zanoli, 91, whose father died in a Nazi camp, went to 
the Israeli Embassy in The Hague and returned a medal he received 
honoring him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations — non-Jews 
honored by Israel for saving Jews during the Holocaust. In an anguished 
letter to the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, he described the 
terrible price his family had paid for opposing Nazi tyranny.

“My sister lost her husband, who was executed in the dunes of The Hague 
for his involvement in the resistance,” he wrote. “My brother lost his 
Jewish fiancée who was deported, never to return.”

Mr. Zanoli continued, “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 

His act crystallizes the moral debate over Israel’s military air and 
ground assault in the Gaza Strip, in which about 2,000 people, a 
majority of them civilians, have been killed. Israel says the strikes 
are aimed at Hamas militants who fire rockets at Israeli cities and have 
dug a secret network of tunnels into Israel.

Mr. Zanoli transformed over the decades from a champion to a critic of 
the Israeli state, mirroring a larger shift in Europe, where anguish 
over the slaughter of six million European Jews led many to support the 
founding of Israel in 1948 as a haven for Jews worldwide.

But in the years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza during the 
1967 war, Europeans have become more critical. Israel blames 
anti-Semitism, which has grown in Europe with the rise of right-wing 
politicians. Some European protests against Israeli military action have 
been marred in recent weeks by open anti-Semitism, blurring the line 
between criticism of Israeli policy and hate speech against Jews. But 
many other critics, like Mr. Zanoli, say their objection to Israeli 
policy is not anti-Jewish but consistent with the humanitarian 
principles that led them to condemn the Holocaust and support the 
founding of a Jewish state.

“I gave back my medal because I didn’t agree with what the state of 
Israel is doing to my family and to the Palestinians on the whole,” Mr. 
Zanoli said in an interview Friday in his spare but elegant apartment, 
adding that his decision was a statement “only against the state of 
Israel, not the Israeli people.”

“Jews were our friends,” said Mr. Zanoli, a retired lawyer who uses a 
motorized scooter but remains erect and regal, much as he appears in a 
yellowing 1940s photograph archived at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial 
in Jerusalem.

Mr. Zanoli said he had never publicly criticized Israel “until I heard 
that my family was the victim.”

In Gaza, Mr. Zanoli’s in-laws say his gesture is a fitting response to 
the losses of their family and others who have lost multiple relatives 
in strikes on homes. Those in-laws include Hassan al-Zeyada, a 
psychological trauma counselor who is an older brother of Ismail Ziadah. 
Their mother, Muftiyah, 70, was the oldest family member to die in the 

Like Mr. Zanoli, Dr. Zeyada, 50, who works to treat the many 
Palestinians in Gaza traumatized by war and displacement, has given much 
thought to the fact that Israel was founded after the Holocaust, one of 
history’s greatest collective traumas.

Dr. Zeyada, who transliterates his family name differently from his 
brother, said Friday that he admired Mr. Zanoli and his family for their 
struggle in World War II against “discrimination and oppression in 
general and against the Jews in particular.”

“For them,” he added, “it’s something painful that the people you 
defended and struggled for turn into aggressors.”

Dr. 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.”

At Yad Vashem, where a leafy garden commemorates the 25,000 people named 
Righteous Among the Nations, a spokeswoman said Friday that Mr. Zanoli’s 
renunciation of the prize was “his decision,” but “we regret it.”

More than 5,000 Dutch have received the honor; only Poles have been 
honored more.

In 1943, Mr. Zanoli’s father was detained by the Nazis for his work in 
the Dutch underground resistance movement. Soon after, according to Yad 
Vashem’s citation, also awarded posthumously to Mr. Zanoli’s mother, 
Jans, Mr. Zanoli traveled to Amsterdam to get Elchanan Pinto, 11, an 
Orthodox Jewish boy whose parents and siblings would all die in the 
death camps.

“Jans Zanoli knew very well the risks involved by then in hiding a 
Jewish youngster in her home, but felt the moral obligation to do so,” 
the citation reads. “Elchanan found a warm and loving home with them.”

After the Allied victory in 1945, an uncle of Elchanan’s took him to a 
Jewish orphanage. In 1951, the citation says, Elchanan immigrated to 
Israel, where he changed his last name to Hameiri. An Elchanan Hameiri 
is listed in phone directories as living in Israel, but could not be 
reached on Friday.

In his letter to the Israeli ambassador, Mr. Zanoli noted that among the 
bereaved were “the great-great grandchildren of my mother.”

He relinquished the honor “with great sorrow,” he wrote, because keeping 
an honor from Israel’s government would be “an insult to the memory of 
my courageous mother” and to his Gaza family.

He added that his family had “strongly supported the Jewish people” in 
their quest for “a national home,” but that he had gradually come to 
believe that “the Zionist project” had “a racist element in it in 
aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews.”

He referred to the displacement of Palestinians — including members of 
the Ziadah family — during the war over Israel’s founding as “ethnic 
cleansing” and said Israel “continues to suppress” and occupy 
Palestinian areas. Israel still occupies the West Bank; it pulled troops 
out of Gaza in 2005 but retains control over its seafront, airspace and 
most of its borders.

Israel says it maintains control to curb Palestinian militants like 
those with Hamas, which in the past has killed several hundred Israelis 
in suicide bombings. Palestinians see the continuing conflict as a 
struggle for self-determination — they use Mr. Zanoli’s word for his 
anti-Nazi work, resistance — and say Israel is obstructing the 
establishment of a Palestinian state with policies like settlements in 
the occupied West Bank.

Mr. Zanoli said he could envision a situation in which he would take the 
medal back.

“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,” he wrote. “Although this will result in a 
state no longer exclusively Jewish it will be a state with a level of 
righteousness on the basis of which I could accept the title of 
‘Righteous among the Nations’ you awarded to my mother and me.”

In that event, he concluded, “be sure to contact me or my descendants.”

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