Lady Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign minister, is supposed to solve diplomatic crises, not create them. But her remarks about the killings at a Jewish day school in Toulouse have created a storm.
According to the Financial Times, “Speaking to a group of Palestinian children in Brussels on Monday, Lady Ashton mentioned a series of deadly incidents in which children were victims, including the shooting attack in Norway last year as well as that day’s killing of three children and one teacher in Toulouse. According to the text of the speech published on her website, Lady Ashton said: ‘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 different parts of the world – we remember young people and children who lose their lives.'”
Many listeners, including Israeli officials, have been disgusted by this analogy between Israel’s actions in Gaza to stop rockets from falling in communities in southern Israel, and the cold blooded murder of Jews in France. Ashton denies this is what she said.
“In her remarks, the High Representative referred to tragedies taking the lives of children around the world and drew no parallel whatsoever between the circumstances of the Toulouse attack and the situation in Gaza,” the spokesman said. On Tuesday a spokesman for Lady Ashton insisted that her remarks had been ‘grossly distorted’ and that she condemned the attack in Toulouse.”
This is exactly wrong, for her remarks quite obviously drew a parallel. That was precisely her point, and it was a morally obtuse analogy between “what is happening in Gaza” and the murders in Toulouse. Perhaps her media advisers are telling her it is better not to apologize, and instead to attack the media for grossly distorting her remarks and just wait it out. That’s a mistake, and what she needs to do is say that in an off-hand remark she unfortunately left the impression that she believes there is any parallel whatsoever between the murder of Jewish children in Toulouse and the efforts of the government of Israel to protect its own children from rockets originating in Gaza. That she has failed to do this only confirms the view that she said what she meant, and meant what she said, in the first place.