Amid an uproar over Jeremy Corbyn’s recent remarks on jihadist terrorism in the UK, a British newspaper has revealed the Labour Party leader attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of a senior Palestinian official believed to have been involved in the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
In October 2014, Corbyn, in an article published in the radical left-wing website Morning Star, recalled a recent visit to Tunisia where he marked the anniversary of Israel’s 1985 attack on the Palestine Liberation Organization’s headquarters there, laying wreaths at a cemetery commemorating Palestinians said killed by Israeli forces in various incidents.
“After wreaths were laid at the graves of those who died on that day [at Sabra and Shatila] and on the graves of others killed by Mossad agents in Paris in 1991, we moved to the poignant statue in the main avenue of the coastal town of Ben Arous, which was festooned with Palestinian and Tunisian flags,” Corbyn wrote.
It seems he was talking about the grave of PLO official Atef Bseiso, PLO’s head of intelligence, thought to have been a key planner of the Munich massacre
There is no record of Israel’s spy agency carrying out an assassination in the French capital around that time, but the June 1992 killing of Bseiso in Paris has been blamed on Israel.
Israel denied any role in the killing, suggesting Bseiso’s death was the result of internal rivalries within the PLO.
Israeli officials did note, however, that as the PLO’s head of intelligence, Bseiso was likely involved in planning the 1972 massacre.
London’s Sunday Times, which sent a reporter to the Tunisian cemetery described by Corbyn in his Morning Star article, found that Bseiso is indeed buried there, appearing to confirm the lawmaker had in fact paid tribute to the slain PLO official during his trip in 2014.
Corbyn’s account was reported by the Sunday Times in a piece detailing the backlash from the lawmaker’s controversial comments on Friday in which he implied that Britain had invited the Manchester suicide attack with its involvement in foreign wars.
“Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home,” the UK opposition leader said Friday in a campaign speech, his first public remarks since the terror attack that killed 22 people in Manchester days earlier.
The Labour party head said Britain’s involvement in global conflict “in no way reduces the guilt” of terrorists who have targeted the British people, adding that the “war on terror has not worked.”
Members of the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats lashed out at Corbyn’s comments, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calling his comments “absolutely monstrous.”
Ahead of Britain’s June 8 general elections, Corbyn is trying to win back the many Labour supporters who turned away from the party in the aftermath of then prime minister Tony Blair’s decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Blair’s backing of US president George W. Bush brought more than 1 million protesters into the streets. When the rationale for war failed to pan out because weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq, Blair’s popularity faded badly after a string of election victories.
When home-grown terrorists attacked London subway and bus lines in 2005, some blamed Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war. Corbyn’s remarks on Friday reflect the view that Britain’s actions overseas are at least in part responsible for the increase in extremist attacks.
Corbyn has held isolationist views for years. He voted against deploying British troops to Iraq in 2003, to Afghanistan in 2010 and against establishing a no-fly zone over Libya in 2011. He also repeatedly voted against anti-terror legislation since becoming a member of Parliament in 1983.
The Labour Party under Corbyn has trailed Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives in the polls, but has begun to make gains in the last week. It is unclear how the worst attack in Britain in more than a decade will impact voter sentiment.
Corbyn’s speech on Friday marked the party’s return to campaigning after a pause it took in the wake of the Manchester attacks. His event started with a minute’s silence and he did not take questions afterwards.
With less than two weeks remaining to Election Day, Labour is gaining ground against the Conservatives.
According to a YouGov poll, the Conservative party is now just five points ahead.