Ashton faces wrath of Israel over Toulouse-Gaza remark
21.03.12 @ 09:24
BRUSSELS - Just about every top politician in Israel has in the past 24 hours attacked EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for remarks about killing of Jewish and Palestinian children.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu: "I was especially upset about the comparison between the intentional slaughter of children and the IDF's [Israeli army's] surgical defensive strikes."
Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman: "The children Ashton needs to focus on are the children of south Israel, who live in constant fear of Gaza rocket attacks." He added: "Israel is the most moral country in the world."
An MP, Danny Danon, called her "anti-Semitic." MP Einat Wilf said she "isn't worthy of representing the European Union."
What Ashton said, at a UN conference on Palestinian refugees in Brussels on Monday (19 March), was: "When we remember what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened when I was in Norway last week, a year ago. When we know what's happening in Syria, when we see what's happened in Gaza and Sderot, in different parts of the world, we remember young people and children who lose their lives."
Reacting to the criticism, Ashton told MEPs at a hearing in the EU parliament on Tuesday: "I am really saddened at the distortion of my remarks ... I drew no parallel whatsoever between this tragedy and events elsewhere in the Middle East."
EU damage-control was not helped by its handling of the official transcript of her UN comments.
The first online version made no mention of the Gaza-rocket-pounded Israeli town of Sderot, indicating that her original intention was to make no allusion to Palestinian culpability. But a second version added Sderot when the Israeli reactions began to come out.
Meanwhile, in breaking news on Wednesday morning, police laid siege to a house in Toulouse, France containing the suspected Jewish school killer, who also shot dead two French soldiers last week.
French interior minister Claude Gueant said he has confessed and that he did it because of Israeli killing of Palestinian children: "He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions."
He said the suspect is a 24-year-old French citizen of Algerian descent who visited Afghanistan and Pakistan and who claims to be Al-Qaeda.
The Ashton backlash comes after a series of leaked internal EU reports accused Israel of stealing Palestinian land and water, trampling on the rights of Arab-Israeli citizens and giving settlers free rein to assault Palestinians.
Israeli diplomats often grumble that Ashton is pro-Palestinian. But they warmed to her went she went against Palestine's bid to become a UN member last year.
An EU diplomat earlier told this website that Ashton's visit to Gaza in 2010 - where she saw first hand the squalid living conditions and fear of Israel - was "a life-changing experience" for the British politician.