Dutch court to hear Gantz 'war crimes' trial

Dutch court to hear Gaza 'war crimes' trial against Netanyahu election challenger Gantz
3 min read
17 September, 2019
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz could face trial over crimes allegedly committed during the 2014 Gaza war.
Gantz faces trial over the killing of six Palestinians in 2014 [Anadolu]
A Dutch court will on Tuesday hear a case against Benny Gantz, Israel's main election challenger against incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The admissibility hearing on the case against the former army chief comes as Israelis head to the polls for the second time this year, Reuters reported.

Gantz, head of the centrist Blue and White electoral alliance, is again vying for the premiership against the right-wing prime minister after April's national elections failed to yield a government.

But the former Chief of General Staff for the Israeli military is at the same time facing the possibility of a Dutch trial based on crimes allegedly committed during the 2014 Gaza war.

Dutch-Palestinian Ismail Ziada lodged the case against Gantz and his co-defendant, former Israeli air force chief Amir Eshel, in the Netherlands due to the country's "universal jurisdiction" laws.

Universal jurisdiction laws have also allowed Germany, France and Spain to launch cases into Syrian war crimes.

Ziada is seeking 600,000 euros ($660,450) for the deaths of six of his family members - his mother, three brothers, sister-in-law and 12-year-old nephew - when their home was bombed during the 2014 Gaza war.

As Chief of General Staff, Gantz took the lead in Israel's Operation Protective Edge, which saw the deaths of more than 2,000 people in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Ziada's relative's were killed when the al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza was bombed in July 2014.

The Israeli military claims the home served as a Hamas "war room" and that four members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were among the dead. Ziada's lawyer has countered that only one of those killed was a Hamas member, and was not active in the militant group at the time of the killing.

Bureij was the site of the 2008 "Bureij Massacre", when 10 civilians, including three children and a Reuters cameraman, were killed by an Israeli airstrike.

Ziada's lawyer told Haaretz in 2017 that financial compensation was not the goal behind the case, but that Dutch law requires a material expression of damage for a law suit to be filed.

Instead, the aim would be to see Gantz and Eshel face criminal responsibility for the case.

The high-level defendants have filed a motion to have the case dismissed, arguing that Dutch courts do not have jurisdiction over this case.

Gantz and Eshel's lawyers will also argue on Tuesday that the two cannot face criminal responsibility for the deaths as they occurred while they were carrying out official government functions.

"The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is the most moral army in the world and I am proud to have served in it for almost 40 years and to have commanded it," Gantz told Reuters.

Zegveld is set to argue that Israeli courts are not accessible to Palestinians, and therefore lodging a case with a Dutch court was the only legal route for Ziada.

"The Israeli judicial system is closed to Palestinians, especially for Palestinians from the Gaza strip including my client who has also been deemed an enemy subject," she told Reuters.

The killings had earlier received international attention when Henk Zanoli, a relative of Ziada through his Dutch wife, returned his from Yad Vashem honoring him as a "Righteous Among the Nations" to the Israeli embassy in the Netherlands in protest.

The "Righteous Among the Nations" is a special designation gifted to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Zanoli and his mother hid a Jewish boy from the Nazi authorities during the second World War.