Baroness Ashton, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has outraged Israelis and Jews around the world with her recent, controversial comments on the murder of four Jews in Toulouse, France.
On Monday, March 19, 2012, a masked gunmen on a motorbike opened fire outside of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish School. When the smoke cleared, 30 year old Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two children, Aryeh, 6, and Gavriel, 3, and Miriam Monsonego, 8, the daughter of the school's principal, lay dead in the street.
In a speech to young Palestinian refugee activists on Monday, Aston was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying, "When we think about what happened today in Toulouse, we remember what happened in Norway last year, we know what is happening in Syria, and we see what is happening in Gaza and other places -- we remember young people and children who lose their lives."
Her comments raised an immediate storm of protest from Jewish leaders around the world, led by Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said that Ashton's words were "inappropriate and I hope that Ashton re-examines and retracts them." Lieberman continued by saying, "Israel is the most moral country in the world, despite having to fight terrorists operating from within a civilian population. The Israel Defense Force is doing everything it can to not hurt that population even though it is defending terrorists." He concluded by stating that Ashton, "should be more concerned about the Jewish children in southern Israel who live in constant fear of rocket attacks from Gaza."
Israel's Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, was equally outraged by Ashton's remarks and made the following statement: "The comparison made by Ashton between events in Gaza, Toulouse and Syria is outrageous and disconnected from reality. The IDF is operating in Gaza with the utmost caution in order to prevent injury to innocent people. I hope the EU's foreign minister quickly understands her mistake and retracts her statements."
Ashton, who is British, even managed to evoke anger from Jewish leaders in her home country. Oliver Worth, the British chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students, stated, "Even when read in context, Ashton's words are beyond unacceptable. Her comments were truly outrageous and revolting." Mr.Worth demanded that Ms. Aston resign because she had "lost all credibility."
Even Israel's Left Wing, Opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, usually a staunch critic of the Israeli policy in Gaza, reacted harshly to Ashton's comments, saying it was "reprehensible, infuriating, and wrong to draw any link between between the murder of children in Toulouse and the massacre Assad is leading in Syria and the situation in Gaza."
After a full day of angry criticism, Baroness Ashton responded by claiming her remarks were taken out of context. She has refused to apologize or withdraw her remarks. Despite the release of a video that proves that Ashton did in fact mention Gaza in context with the Toulouse murders, she continued to deny making any comparison. "I'm really saddened of the distortion of my remarks," Ashton told a European Parliament committee in Brussels today. "I condemn unreservedly the terrible murders. I drew no parallel whatsoever between this tragedy and events elsewhere in the Middle East."
Ms. Ashton's attempts to smooth over the furor she has provoked have not had not had any success with Israel's Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu, who replied, "What especially outrages me is the comparison between a targeted massacre of children and the surgical defensive actions of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), intended to strike at terrorists using children as human shields."
Aston has been criticized in the past, for what supporters of Israel perceive as her refusal to condemn the Palestinians for their actions, while constantly attacking Israeli policies. In her maiden speech as foreign policy head of the European Union, Ashton demanded that Israel immediately lift its legal blockade on the Gaza Strip. She also demanded that Israel remove the West Bank separation fence that has been one of Israel's most effective methods of preventing Palestinian terrorists from entering Israel. It should be mentioned, that at the time of her initial remarks, Ashton had never visited Israel, and many critics and friends alike, felt she lacked the experience for her position. After the first year in her job, Lady Ashton was given the lowest grade of any E.U. executive in a poll. She was the only official out of the 324 graded to receive a failing mark.
Israeli government officials and Jewish leaders around the world are concerned by what they perceive as Ashton's one sided policies and regular criticism of Israel. They feel that Ashton's attitude is inspiring the Palestinians not to negotiate in hopes that the world body will force Israel to accede to all of Palestine's demands.
Ashton's remarks on the tragedy in Toulouse were certainly not helpful. By mentioning Gaza so explicitly in her comments, she has, intentionally or unintentionally, given the Palestinians, Radical Islamists, and Iran the ability to say that Western leaders also think Israel is killing innocent children. Her words may be used in the future by anti Jewish extremists to justify more attacks on civilians.
Baroness Ashton is the chief spokesperson for the European Union on Foreign Policy and that gives weight to her words. She should refrain from making statements that may give terrorists and killers an excuse to commit another hate crime. Her remarks yesterday were thoughtless at best and that makes her speech not only inappropriate, but potentially dangerous to the safety of innocents. A person in such a high position really should consider their words more carefully and admit when they are wrong. Baroness Ashton needs to apologize for the insensitivity of her remarks.
Political Commentary By Wolff Bachner (This article is the author's opinion and does not reflect the policy of Inquisitr.com)