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Look beyond victimhood after Toulouse, says Ashton

The shrill Israeli denunciations of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs had all the grace of a relative of the deceased starting a fight at a funeral

When some psychopath killed a teacher and pupils in France I waited for someone to blame the victims’ Jewishness. I listened for someone to speak out against Israeli government policy, saying that murdering Jewish kids was a regrettable but understandable result of Israel’s robust view of self-defense. Yet I didn’t hear a thing.

Somebody heard something, though. Israel’s PM, and foreign and defense ministers, eager to be victims at the hands of anti-Semitic Europeans, heard something from the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs. They heard the usually low-key and emollient Baroness Cathy Ashton say that children dying at the hands of a lunatic in France was equal to children being killed in Gaza, presumably by Israelis.

If Baroness Cathy Ashton would have told me, or the media or, her Eurocrat colleagues that deliberately shooting French kids was like anything else in the world I would have disagreed, but she wasn’t talking to me, nor to the media, nor to her fellow Eurocrats.

Will the real victims please stand up? Lieberman, Netanyahu and Barak (illustration: Arie Katz/The Times of Israel)
Will the real victims please stand up? Lieberman, Netanyahu and Barak (illustration: Arie Katz/The Times of Israel)

Some Palestinian kids were visiting Brussels, and Baroness Ashton told them they weren’t the only ones who had it rough. These were kids who might easily have been told by some of their extremist brethren that dead Jewish kids were a matter for rejoicing. Instead they were told by the EU foreign policy supremo that kids can have it rough in France, in Norway or in Gaza.

You don’t have to be a European left-wing anti-Zionist ideologue to agree that Gaza City isn’t the nicest place to live. Even Israelis who lament Israel’s evacuation of the Strip wouldn’t want their kids to grow up in Jabalia. So when Baroness Ashton put their misery into perspective it wasn’t a slight, it wasn’t a comparison, it wasn’t an equation. It was an encouragement to look beyond victimhood.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Avigdor Lieberman were not going beyond victimhood. As the world tried to cope with the shock of Toulouse, their shrill denunciations had all the grace of a relative of the deceased picking a fight at a funeral. Thankfully, there was little coverage of their outbursts in Europe. Hamas, bizarrely, tried to make a heroine of Baroness Ashton who, unsurprisingly, did not accept any Israeli invitations to resign.

Israel has, in recent years, made a tremendous effort at public diplomacy. The Israeli government has made a tremendous effort to replace the narratives of violence and victimhood with a narrative of drip irrigation and tech startups. And then, keening in agony at their victimhood, the prime minister and two cabinet ministers showed that they’d rather stick with an old story.

About the Author
Dr Lynette Nusbacher is a strategist and devil's advocate. She is Principal at Nusbacher & Associates, a strategy consultancy. She has been a senior national security official in the United Kingdom, was Senior Lecturer in War Studies at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and served as a military intelligence officer.