There are no words to express the horror of the Toulouse shooting, but EU Foreign Affairs Representative Catherine Ashton did manage to find the words that add insult to injury. “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.”
Three Jewish children lost their lives in Toulouse on Monday because a murderer intentionally shot them in their school. There are sometimes civilian casualties, including among children, when Israel targets missile launching sites in Gaza. Israel’s military operations in Gaza are always a reaction to the shooting of missiles launched from Gaza and aimed at Israeli civilians. The former is a lawful act of self-defense while the latter is a war crime. The civil casualties of Israel’s military operations in Gaza are both unintentional and unavoidable, and Hamas is ultimately responsible for those casualties.
Even though Ashton reacted to the uproar caused by her remarks by declaring that she “drew no parallel whatsoever between the circumstances of the Toulouse attack and the situation in Gaza,” the comparison she made is outrageous.
Unfortunately, however, Ashton’s comparison is not an isolated act of clumsiness or malignity. Many world leaders and international organizations have gotten used to being outrageous when talking about Israel. Even worse, those leaders and organizations simply get away with their outrageousness. This tendency must, and can, stop.
The same Bashar Assad who has murdered over 7,500 of his own citizens condemned Israel last week for retaliating to the shooting of rockets from Gaza. The same Recep Erdogan who uses military force against Turkey’s Kurds (a violence that caused the death of 34 innocents, most of them teenagers, this past December) has accused Israel of “massacring” the Palestinians. The same Vladimir Putin who strongly condemned Israel’s raid on the Gaza flotilla in 2010 just sent military reinforcement to Assad’s murderous regime.
Then there is the UN and the Arab-funded NGOs.
“Israel Apartheid Week” recently ended on US and European campuses. While Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Arab citizens enjoy civil rights, and while Arab states are notorious for their apartheid policies against minorities, Israel is singled out for the crimes of its accusers.
Last week, The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) endorsed a report in which the human rights record of the Gaddafi regime in Libya was enthusiastically praised by some of the world’s most repressive governments. The HRC singles out Israel as the world’s only country whose human rights record must be examined at every session. While the HRC is silent on Assad’s mass murder, it discussed a resolution this week condemning Israel’s human rights record in the “occupied Syrian Golan.”
This Monday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), released a report that accuses Israel of “stealing” water from the Palestinians. In truth, however, the “Water Agreement” signed by Israel and the PA in Washington in September 1995 is respected by Israel and systematically violated by the Palestinians.
Israel must take charge
This outrageousness will continue as long as Israel adopts a defensive position instead of going on the offensive.
Rather than reacting to Erdogan’s outbursts with appeasing statements, Israel should condemn Turkey’s opposition to Kurdish statehood and Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus. Israel should also remind the world that Syria normalized its relations with Turkey despite Turkey’s refusal to relinquish the Alexandretta province.
Rather than echoing the absurd accusation of “Israeli Apartheid” (Prof. Yehezkel Dror did just that in his recent report “Israeli Statecraft: National Security Challenges and Responses” by suggesting that Israel add a Palestinian stanza to its national anthem as well as an Islamic crescent to the blue-and-white flag alongside the Star of David), Israel should organize an “Arab apartheid week” on US and European campuses.
Rather than imploring the Palestinians to return to the negotiations table (as Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva Aharon Leshno-Yaar did this week after hearing his Palestinian counterpart Ibrahim Khraishi declare that Israel’s retaliation to Hamas’s rocket fire was “unjustified”), Israel should ask the world why it accepts Mahmoud Abbas’s position that there will be no room for a single Jew in the Palestinian state envisioned by the PA.
The Toulouse tragedy is a reminder of a simple truth: acts of violence are preceded by words, and there are consequences to portraying Jews as segregationists, as human rights abusers, and as water thieves.
Jews will be vulnerable as long as they are defamed, and this defamation will only end when we go on the offensive and when we have the confidence to stand for the truth.