Israel-Gaza conflict: Righteous Among the Nations medal winner hands back honour after family are killed in Gaza

Hank Zanoli was honoured for protecting a Jewish boy during the holocaust

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The Independent Online

A 91-year-old man has returned a prestigious medal, awarded by Israel to non-Jews who protected Jewish people during the Holocaust, after six of his relatives were killed in an airstrike in Gaza.

Henk Zanoli and his late mother Johana Zanoli-Smit were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations, after their family hid a Jewish boy during the Nazi occupation of Holland until the Allied liberation in 1945. The child’s parents had been killed in a concentration camp, Hareetz reported according to i24 News.

The Zanoli family were already at risk of Nazi persecution as Hank Zanoli’s father was an open critic of Holland’s occupiers. His opposition saw him taken to a series of concentration camps, before he died in Mauthausen in February 1945.

The mother and son were given their medals in 2011 by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

But Hank Zanoli has now returned his award to the Israeli embassy in Hague, after members of his family were killed in their home on 20 July.

During Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli fighter jet bombed the family home of Ismail Ziadah – who married Hank Zanoli’s father’s great neice.

The family matriarch, 70-year-old Muftiyah, three of her sons, Jamil, Omar and Youssef, Jamil's wife, Bayan and their 12-year-old son, Shaaban were all killed.

In a letter addressed to the Israeli ambassador and published in Haaretz, Hank Zanoli said: “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.

“After the horror of the Holocaust my family strongly supported the Jewish people also with regard to their aspirations to build a national home,” wrote Mr Zanoli.

“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," he added.

The IDF has not responded to a Haaretz request for clarification as to why this particular house was targeted.