European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton once again found herself the focus of much acrimony in Jerusalem this week after she seemed to equate the murder of four people at a Jewish school in southern France with the casualties of war in Gaza.
The Jewish school attack was one of the more heinous examples of pure anti-Semitism in recent decades. The full extent of the barbarity was later revealed by eyewitnesses who spoke to local and international media.
According to eyewitnesses cited by Israel's Ynet news portal, the Muslim gunman first targeted and gunned down from close range 30-year-old Yonatan Sandler, who was at that moment holding his 3-year-old and 6-year-old sons, the very image of innocent fatherly love.
Another of the killer's victims, 8-year-old Miriam Monsonego, tried to escape as fast as her little legs could carry her. But the killer was having none of it. He reportedly grabbed the girl by the hair and shot her from point-blank range. As the girl lied bleeding and dying on the ground, the killer wanted to make sure the job was finished, so he lifted up little Miriam's head and fired two additional rounds into her already-broken body.
Neither the Sandlers nor little Miriam had done anything to provoke such a murderous attack. It was a deliberate, brutal and heartless execution of innocent life.
By contrast, Israel's military strikes on Gaza are are a response to incessant rocket fire on the cities and towns of southern Israel. Despite the fact that international law affords Israel the right to return fire on the aggressors, the Israeli army goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, which is very difficult considering Gaza-based terrorists usually launch their attacks from civilian areas. Many planned Israeli strikes are called off because commanders deem the risk of collateral damage to be too great.
In short, Israel does not strike Gaza arbitrarily or indiscriminately.
The differences between these two examples of violence is obvious. Or, it should be. But it's not, not to everyone, not to people like Catherine Ashton who, just one day after the Toulouse shooting, told Palestinian Arab children visiting Brussels the following:
"When we think about what happened today in Toulouse, 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."
Ashton knowingly lumped Israel's careful defensive measures against Gaza's terrorist infrastructure together with two brazen terrorist attacks and one blood-soaked crackdown by a rogue dictatorship.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded by saying, "I hope that the EU's foreign minister will quickly realize the mistake she made and withdraw her comments."
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni blasted Ashton's statement as "unacceptable, outrageous and wrong. There is no similarity between an act of hatred or a leader killing members of his nation and a country fighting terror, even if civilians are harmed."
Interior Minister Eli Yishai insisted that Ashton was harming Europe's ability to act as an honest broker, and called for her resignation. Ashton's refusal made her an instant celebrity in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
"Ashton’s declarations are worthy of appreciation and support due to Israel’s attempts to pressure her," announced Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq on his Facebook page.