Catherine Ashton, the European Union's Chief Foreign Affairs officer and member of the British Labor Party, weighed in on the shooting rampage in Toulouse, France, that occurred earlier this week. See Fury in Israel at Remark Linking Gaza to Toulouse. According to one account, 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 in different parts of the world — we remember young people and children who lose their lives.” I should add some context to her quote. Ashton was speaking at a conference about Palestinian refugees. Ashton’s office later issued their transcript of the speech, which included mention of Israeli children who live under threat of Gazan rockets. Cries of outrage poured out of Netanyahu’s cabinet. While her statements were indeed sweeping, they were also justified. The Netanyahu government is once again asking governments and the media for a pass for their human rights hypocrisy.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Ashton’s comment was “outrageous and has absolutely no grounding in reality.” Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman said that Ashton should be concerned about “the children of southern Israel who live in constant fear of rocket attacks launched from Gaza.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded that comparing the “deliberate massacre of children” with IDF’s “defensive, surgical actions” that are “intended to hit terrorists who use children as a human shield” is unfair. Once again see Fury in Israel at Remark Linking Gaza to Toulouse. None of these statements are grounded in reality, however.
I will not argue that Gazan rockets do not pose a threat to children in Southern Israel, but I refuse to accept that this amounts to a writ large justification of IDF’s actions in Gaza. While IDF might not have gone in with the intent to kill civilian children, it must take full responsibility when it does. This is a basic requirement of the sort of western liberal democracy Israel says it is. While Israel does indeed have a right to exist, it does not have a right for preferential treatment. Comments from Netanyahu’s cabinet amount to an admission that they believe Israeli children are entitled to special treatment. Ashton was right, the slaying of a child anywhere amounts to a grave injustice
The killing of one child gives a sort of license for the killing of others. While I cannot pretend to have a readily available solution to the Palestinian/Israeli problem, Israel must come to terms with the fact that as long as they continue to handle the situation in Gaza in this manner, they are devaluing the lives of all children. The Netanyahu regime is in effect signing off on policy that devalues the lives of Israeli children. Ashton’s office responded with a statement saying that her words had not intended to draw any parallels. But this is simply giving the Netanyahu government a pass. There are parallels. IDF has already confirmed the deaths of two children in Gaza during their latest offensive. A tragedy is a tragedy. The needless taking of the life of a child is the same whether done by IDF or a deranged Al-Qaeda sympathizer.