EU's Baroness Ashton under fire for Toulouse murder comments

By Jennifer Lipman, March 20, 2012
Baroness Ashton

Baroness Ashton

The European Union's High Representative has been accused of comparing the killing of three children and a rabbi in a shooting attack in France to the situation in Gaza.

Baroness Ashton, describing the murders in Toulouse as a "terrible tragedy", said that she was reminded of other young people "killed in all sorts of terrible circumstances", including "the Belgian children having lost their lives in a
terrible tragedy", those murdered in Norway by a lone gunman last summer and the victims of the regime's crackdown in Syria.

She then added: "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."

Her comments, made at the "Palestine refugees in the changing Middle East" conference in Brussels, were criticised in Israel and the Jewish community as unacceptable.

"Even when read in context, Ashton's words are beyond unacceptable," said Oliver Worth, the British chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students. He said they were "truly outrageous and revolting" and called for her to resign because she had "lost all credibility".

"Baroness Ashton's remarks were both crass and wholly inappropriate," the chief executives of the Board of Deputies, the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Leadership Council, along with John Mann MP, chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

"The loss of young, innocent lives anywhere is of course appalling, but the attempt to draw parallels between Toulouse and Gaza was deeply, offensive and unworthy of a person in her position."

"There is absolutely no equivalence between the situation in Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in the hopes of peace, and the cold and callous murder of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and the three children," said Stefan Kerner, director of public affairs for the Zionist Federation.

"For a person in Baroness Ashton's position to even consider her comments appropriate is disgraceful. She should withdraw her statement immediately and apologise unreservedly for the offence that she has caused."

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's Foreign Minister, said he viewed her remarks as "inappropriate". He said he hoped that she "re - examines and retracts them".

Israel's Opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, described it as "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".

She said: "A hate crime or a leader murdering his people is not like a country fighting terror, even if civilians are hurt," and that the Baroness had failed to make "the appropriate moral distinction".

Baroness Ashton, who has emerged as a staunch critic of Israel since she was appointed, was criticised last year for attending the signing ceremony of the Hamas-Fatah unity deal.


Last updated: 4:04pm, March 20 2012