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Israel comparisons malign tragedy

Justice contributing writer

Published: Monday, March 26, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 26, 2012 23:03

“A national tragedy.” That is what French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the recent shooting of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish day school in Toulouse, France. Twenty-three-year-old Mohammed Merah walked into the school, found his targets and stopped at nothing until they were killed—including chasing a seven-year-old girl through a courtyard, grabbing her by the hair and shooting her point-blank.

Merah recorded the entire event on a camera strapped to his stomach. After the attack, Merah fled to his apartment where he hid from police for over 30 hours before h e was finally shot and killed in a crossfire. Multiple members of the police force were injured in the standoff. Merah was also wanted for the killing of three French paratroopers. During the standoff, Merah stated that all of his attacks were in an effort to avenge France’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

In response to the Toulouse shooting, the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, remarked, “When we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, 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.” Many believe Ashton intentionally slandered the Israeli military policy with this statement.

Ashton’s comments have shown a complete lack of respect for the Jewish community in France by making such a comparison. This event was a tragedy; children were dehumanized and murdered at the hands of a terrorist. While comparisons to other previous attacks, shootings and tragedies are inevitable, they are not necessarily appropriate. The focus should be on Toulouse and Toulouse alone.

Many members of the Israeli Senate were flabbergasted by Ashton’s remarks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned “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.” In an attempt to appease her critics, Ashton’s office released the transcript of the speech, which had slightly different wording, specifically mentioning Sderot, a southwestern Israeli city. With tens of thousands of rockets fired by Gaza militants into the city of Sderot and aimed directly at civilians, children live in constant fear of rocket attack.

However, adding the situation in Sderot to her comments does not make it any more appropriate. Ashton clearly does not see the major flaw with her comments; no comparison is appropriate.

While Ashton has tried to clarify her statements, the fact remains that she inappropriately compared two situations that should not be compared. Firstly, in France, the terrorist’s sole intention was to kill innocent Jewish children. This was a single act of terror, not part of a war or previous violence. Gaza is a war zone. To compare children who are targeted and murdered point-blank to children who have been killed unintentionally by the result of war is simply absurd.

Furthermore, the IDF has employed numerous military tactics in order to prevent civilian casualties. These tactics include but are not limited to: pinpoint targeting, which involves singling out terrorists for an airstrike in a way that won’t harm civilian bystanders, and aborting strikes due to risk of civilians being injured or killed.

The IDF has heavily invested in smart bombs and has developed special missiles, such as the F-16I Sufa and the Delilah missile, which have the ability to cancel a strike while midair. These tactics, proven successful in preventing civilian casualties, have been commended by many, including Col. Richard Kemp, a commander in the British Army. He testified before the United Nations saying, “Based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

However, some civilian casualties cannot be avoided. Ashton’s comparison of those unfortunate circumstances in Gaza to a terrorist attack deliberately meant to harm children in France shows her complete misunderstanding of the situation.

Ashton’s comments are out of line, disrespectful and simply not factual. She displayed minimal regard for the emotional state of the victims’ families and undermined the true tragedy that this event represents for the country of France. Those grieving deserve a time to mourn without political debate surrounding them. Ashton’s ill-advised comments have detracted from the tragedy itself, and that is unfair to the victims, their families and all of France.

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