We are unmoved by the apology of Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s “high representative for foreign affairs and security policy,” and vice-president of the European Commission.
On Monday, Ashton spoke to Palestinian youth at a conference in Brussels titled “Palestine Refugees in the changing Middle East,” an event sponsored by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Said Ashton, “And in days when we remember young people who have been killed in all sorts of terrible circumstances, the Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy, and a friend of mine’s child being part of that. 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 Sredot [sic], in different parts of the world, we remember young people and children who lose their lives.”
What happened last week in Belgium is indeed a terrible tragedy – 22 children died when their bus slammed into a tunnel wall – but it was an accident.
How can that be compared to Anders Behring Breivik killing 77 people, most of them teenagers (many of whom he shot in the head)?
How can an accident be compared to someone, allegedly Muhammad Merah, chasing seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego into her school building, grabbing her by the hair, and shooting her in the head?
As for “what’s happening in Syriaâ€¦, in Gaza and Sredot,” and elsewhere, these are tragedies, but they are in no way the equal of Norway or Toulouse.
The Gaza/Sderot references are especially galling. Israelis do not walk up to little children and shoot them in the heads. Children die in Gaza, not because Israelis are blood-thirsty, but because cowardly terrorists turn many of these children into human shields.
We have little doubt that the Gaza terrorists who aim their missiles at schools in Israel’s south, especially Sderot, are blood-thirsty, crazed murderers, but hurling missiles into the air is nothing like shooting a child in the head up close and personal.
Ashton claims that the meaning of her words was distorted – not that they were not said, only that they were understood in an unintended way – and that she “strongly condemns” Monday’s killings. She also said that she never intended to compare Toulouse to Gaza. If so, she chose her words poorly.
From plain old Catherine Ashton – or Joe the Plumber, for that matter – such a response might be acceptable (might, not would).
This Catherine Ashton, however, is the Right Honorable the Baroness Ashton of Upholland; among other things a valued member of Her Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council (PC); and a life peer of the realm. Being a PC means she is an adviser to Queen Elizabeth II. She is also a prominent member of Britain’s Labor Party. And, of course, she is Europe’s equivalent of secretary of state, as well as its vice president.
Every word this Catherine Ashton says must be carefully weighed before she utters them. If her words represent her thinking, and she represents the thinking of the European Union, then the so-called Quartet cannot be considered an honest broker when it comes to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Lady Ashton (for such is she called) needs to resign from the EU and from her post as a PC. For their part, Britain’s Labor Party and its leader, Ed Milliband, must decide on their own what to do about this rightly dishonored lady.