Lady Ashton’s Toulouse-Gaza parallel

Israeli leaders have hit out at Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, over a speech in which she appeared to compare Monday’s shooting attack on a Jewish school in France to the suffering of children in the Gaza Strip.

Ashton’s remarks came amid backlash to comments she had made at a conference titled “Palestine Refugees in the changing Middle East” following the deadly shooting attack in the south of France.

Speaking at the event, the EU’s foreign minister said all should remember the young people who have been killed in all sorts of terrible circumstances – the Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy and when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world – we remember young people and children who lose their lives.”

She received criticism from several Israeli officials:

Israeli prime-minister, Binyamin Netanyahu:

What especially outrages me is the comparison between a targeted massacre of children and the surgical defensive actions of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces), intended to strike at terrorists using children as human shields.

Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak:

The comparison made by Ashton between what is happening in Gaza to what happened in Toulouse, and what is going on in Syria every day, is outrageous and has absolutely no grounding in reality.

Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman:

Israel is the most moral country in the world, despite having to fight terrorists operating from within a civilian population. The IDF is doing everything it can to not hurt that population even though it is defending terrorists.

Almost 24 hours after the speech was given, Lady Ashton’s staff corrected the transcript of the speech on her website to show that in addition to citing Gaza among her list of sites where children have been killed, she also mentioned Sderot, the Israeli town near the Gaza Strip which has been the target of rocket attacks fired by Palestinian militias.

In my opinion, the fact that she also mentioned Sderot in her speech doesn’t help her one bit. The Toulouse murders, the Norway massacre, what’s happening in Syria and the missiles fired against innocent civilians in Sderot all have one thing in common – the attacks were all carried out by terrorists with no regrets about the lives they have taken. The death of children in Gaza is in no way similar to these. The IDF and every Israeli truly regret the life of every child lost and tries its utmost to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. The Palestinians terrorists that use these children as human shields while firing rockets at Israeli homes are the ones to blame for their deaths.

It may well be that Lady Ashton didn’t realise the full extent of what she was saying when she included the children of Gaza in her list, but I think her comments may well reflect what her true, misconceived notions about the situation in Gaza.

This small up-stir has given the Israeli government an opportunity to tell the world what the true situation in Gaza is and how hard it tries to avoid the deaths of innocent people. Too few people understand what the IDF goes through to preserve lives. Perhaps today a few more people will become aware of the reality of the situation.

Hopefully they will catch the mad-man Islamist that committed these heinous acts soon. May the lives of the 7 murdered be a remembered for good. One day we will have peace.

Sources: FT, Haaretz, AFP.


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