EU Corrects Ashton Speech After Israel Row
The European Union on Tuesday issued a corrected version of a speech by foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, which had angered Israeli officials who said it drew paralels between the murder of four Jews in France and cricumstances in Hamas-run Gaza.
“When we think about what happened today in Toulouse, we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, and we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world - we remember young people and children who lose their lives," original reports quoted Ashton as saying.
The new transcript of Asthon’s remarks mentions the situation of children in both Gaza and the southern Israeli town of Sderot after the first version only mentioned the Hamas-run enclave.
A video of Ashton's speech Monday showed she indeed mentioned Sderot, a town routinely targeted in rocket attacks by Gaza terror gangs, during her remarks.
“When we see what is happening in Gaza and Sderot, in different parts of the world -- we remember young people and children who lose their lives," she had said.
The phrase “and Sderot” was redacted from first transcript of the speech, which was given at the event in Brussels organized by the UN relief agency for 'Palestinian refugees' (UNWRA).
Before the new transcript was released, Netanyahu, his defense minister and his foreign minister all slammed the remarks.
“What especially outrages me is the comparison between a targeted massacre of children and the surgical defensive actions of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), intended to strike at terrorists using children as human shields,” Netanyahu said.
The new text was released after a day of damage control, with her spokesman Michael Mann insisting that her remarks were “grossly distorted,” although he had not indicated at the time that she had talked about Sderot too.
“In her remarks, the High Representative referred to tragedies taking the lives of children around the world and drew no parallel whatsoever between the circumstances of the Toulouse attack and the situation in Gaza,” he said.
Ashton “strongly condemns” the shooting that left three children and a teacher dead at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse on Monday, and extends her sympathies to their families, France and the Jewish community, he said.
Mann added that Ashton was making a “general remark” about "violence against children around the world."
“She wanted to draw attention to the unfortunate fate of children around the world who lose their lives. Any indication or suggestion that there is a comparison or a parallel is incorrect,” he said.
EU officials contacted Israeli counterparts to clarify Ashton’s actual remarks, an EU diplomat said.