Opinion

Benny Gantz, His New Adviser and the Blood on Their Hands

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Benny Gantz and Amir Eshel in 2012.
Benny Gantz and Amir Eshel in 2012. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The flight to Washington with the connection in Zurich surprised people. Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz as a regular guy. The fact that his new adviser for diplomatic issues, Amir Eshel, came along made a big impression; former air force chiefs are almost always very impressive.

After they stood in line for the flight like all the other passengers, the two sat down in the plane and sank deep into conversation ahead of the meeting at the White House. The name Muftia Ziada certainly didn’t come up in their talk before they fell asleep after their Bloody Marys over the Atlantic. Muftia who? The name that they probably never heard before should have been resounding in their minds.

In a symbolic coincidence, a mere two days separated Gantz and Eshel’s visit to Washington and the hearing of a suit against them at a district court in The Hague. The meeting in Washington was a big story, the one in The Hague was a non-story. As expected, three judges there rejected the demand for compensation by Ismail Ziada, a Dutch citizen and the son of the late Muftia Ziada, from the two handsome and promising Israelis, Gantz and Eshel.

Muftia was a 1948 refugee who was expelled or fled as a child to the Bureij refugee camp in Gaza, where she lived her life. On July 20, 2014, her life came to a cruel end. The apartment house where she lived was blown up from the air and 70-year-old Muftia was killed along with her three sons, her daughter-in-law and her grandchild.

The family was almost wiped out. She was one of 142 families that lost more than three children during those terrible days of Operation Protective Edge, when the Israeli military bombed apartment buildings with the people inside as an intentional, despicable and cruel policy, not as an operational error.

According to figures provided by rights group B’Tselem, around 70 apartment houses were blown up with their residents inside, killing more than 600 people. Gantz was the commander in chief and Eshel was the commander of the air force.

To this day, Gantz is proud of this killing. In his response to the suit in the Dutch court, he said the Israeli army is the most moral army in the world and he’s proud to have served in it for decades. The two men who flew to Washington to discuss the annexation plan, which Gantz supports, are comrades in arms, blood brothers. There is more blood on their hands than on those of their rival, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The apartment house in Bureij has since been rebuilt. The four children who lost their parents and their grandmother in the bombing have been rehoused on the ground floor of the building, whose walls are gray. Simone Tangelder, a journalist for Dutch public television, is making a documentary on the affair and visited the rebuilt family home in Gaza on Thursday. The family told her they hoped the court in the Netherlands would rule in favor of the suit. This was of course a failed hope – of the hopeless.

The Ziada family was partly obliterated by an intentional bombing of civilians, clearly a war crime. This crime, like all others, isn’t being investigated, either in Israel or abroad, except for the joke of an investigation by the Israeli army. There is no one to accept responsibility, no one to be punished, no one to pay the price that should be paid, no one to compensate the victims. This crime is an orphan, like the children of the Ziada family.

To protest the killing of the members of the Ziada family, only the Dutch nonagenarian Henk Zanoli returned the Righteous Among the Nations medal he received from Yad Vashem to the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands. This family, like all who share its fate in Gaza, has no voice and no protector. Now the Dutch court has also rejected them, with the temerity to demand that the family pay court costs to Israel, whose lawyers defended Gantz and Eshel.

Those responsible for this mass killing in Gaza are now the hope of the Israeli center-left, the moderate and the sane, lovers of peace and justice. They boast of moral values, they are against wars and crimes – and of course against Netanyahu. Just let Gantz be elected and Eshel be appointed his adviser, and everything will be so much better and so much more just.

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