Home Daily Brief Montreal Gazette's Ashton Clarification Misses the Point

Montreal Gazette's Ashton Clarification Misses the Point

by Mike Fegelman

Today, the Montreal Gazette issued a clarification of a wire story that appeared on Wednesday. The clarification states:

“A wire service story in Wednesday’s paper about remarks made by Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign minister, did not reflect the entirety of her statement. In commenting after the shootings in Toulouse, she made reference to the deaths of young people elsewhere in recent years, including Gaza and Sderot,Israel. But the story, which was based on an early transcript of her remarks, did not include the reference to Sderot”.

The inclusion of Sderot does not, however, change the point Catherine Ashton was making when she said:

"When we think about what happened today in Toulouse,” she said, “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."

In her statement, Ashton was not simply lamenting the tragedy of the death of children.  Clearly, Aston was lamenting the loss of life through acts of terror. In her statement, Ashton implied that just as the children in Toulouse, Norway, Syria (and now Sderot) were intentionally targeted for murder, so are the children in Gaza.

This egregious comparison equated the intentional murder of children with unintended casualties caused by legitimate acts of self defence, as prescribed by international law. Such is the case with Israel’s precision strikes on terror targets and weapons depots. On the other hand, terror groups in Gaza launch rockets from densely populated areas to intentionally cause civilian deaths among their own populations, as well as in Israel. This is done when they launch rockets from the roofs of schools and hospitals, for example, and it is a war crime. 

This difference in intention is reflected by the reaction to such deaths. On the one hand, the killing of civilians is celebrated in Gaza when a rocket strikes a children’s school bus in Israel. On the other, the Israel government considers the death of civilians an unintended and regrettable consequence of responding to attacks on Israel.

The uproar caused by the remarks of EU’s top diplomat was over her refusal to draw a distinction between a war crime and a legitimate act of self-defence. Whether or not she mentionted Sderot in her remarks was beside the point. The point is that if Ashton cannot distinguish between terrorism and counter-terrorism, the office she represents has become part of the problem, not part of the solution. 



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