UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday faced fresh criticism over photos of him holding a wreath during a 2014 ceremony at a Tunisian cemetery.
It appears from the snapshots that Corbyn was standing near the graves of Palestinian terrorists involved in the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
In 2017, the Sunday Times revealed that in an October 2014 article published on the radical left-wing website Morning Star, Corbyn recalled a 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.
Pictures published by the Daily Mail Saturday appear to show Corbyn in front of a plaque honoring members of the Black September terrorist organization, 15 yards (approximately 13 meters) away from the graves of those killed in the 1985 air strike.
One image, said to be from the archives of the Palestinian embassy in Tunisia, seems to show the leader of the UK opposition participating in Islamic prayer.
Here's Jeremy Corbyn, laying a wreath at an event honouring members of Black September, a terrorist group that murdered 11 Israeli athletes in Munich. pic.twitter.com/GE7KS2KRRC
— Jimmy (@JimmySecUK) August 10, 2018
In his article published after the trip, opposition leader Corbyn does appear to refer to the grave of one of the architects of the Munich massacre.
“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,” he wrote.
This prompted speculation that Corbyn had honored the memory of Atef Bseiso, who was head of intelligence for the PLO and was involved in the murder of the Israeli athletes as part of the 1972 Black September terrorist operation in Munich. Bseiso was killed in Paris in 1992.
At the time, spokespeople for Corbyn told then-Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush that “Jeremy Corbyn condemns the Munich massacre and its perpetrators, and that what he was attending was not anything to do with perpetrator Atef Bseiso, but an event to commemorate the 1985 bombing of the PLO headquarters.”
During the September 1972 attack on the Munich Olympic Village by the Black September Palestinian terror group, 11 Israelis were taken hostage. Two were murdered in the Olympic village and nine others were executed at the airport. A German policeman was killed in a shootout with the terrorists during a botched rescue attempt.
According to the Daily Mail Saturday, the photos from the ceremony show Corbyn in front of a plaque honoring Black September founder Salah Khalaf, his key aide Fakhri al-Omari and Hayel Abdel-Hamid, PLO chief of security. Adjacent to their graves is that of Bseiso. All are widely thought to have been assassinated either by the Mossad or rival Palestinian factions.
On Saturday, Labour Friends of Israel slammed the party leader for the visit.
“It beggars belief that anyone would wish to honor the terrorists behind the brutal massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at Munich,” Jennifer Gerber, director of the organization, told the Daily Mail.
“However, it is sadly utterly unsurprising that Jeremy Corbyn appears to have done so. Others will rightly regard it is as totally sickening,” she said.
ITV News reported Saturday that Labour sources noted Corbyn had already answered questions about his visit to the cemetery when he said last year: “I was in Tunisia at a Palestinian conference and I spoke at that Palestinian conference and I laid a wreath to all those that had died in the air attack that took place on Tunis, on the headquarters of the Palestinian organizations there.
“And I was accompanied by very many other people who were at a conference searching for peace.”
There was no independent verification that the pictures published by the Daily Mail did in fact disprove the denial issued by Corbyn’s spokespeople.
The report appeared a day after Corbyn came under fire when video emerged of him appearing to compare Israeli military rule in the West Bank to the Nazi occupation of European countries during World War II.
EXCLUSIVE – In 2013 @JeremyCorbyn spoke at an event hosted by the Palestinian Return Centre in which he made a direct comparison between Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Nazi occupation of Europe during WW2. Watch until the end… pic.twitter.com/POMfsX5APq
— The Golem (@TheGolem_) August 10, 2018
In the short clip, which was shared by Twitter user The Golem, Corbyn says Palestinians in the West Bank live “under occupation of the very sort that would be recognized by many people in Europe who suffered occupation during the Second World War, with the endless road blocks, imprisonment, irrational behavior by the military and the police.”
The video was said to have been filmed at a 2013 event held by the Palestine Return Centre, when Corbyn was a relatively unknown Labour MP.
The release of the video came as Corbyn continues to be dogged by his handling of anti-Semitism allegations in Labour and just days after a 2011 interview emerged of him accusing the British Broadcasting Corporation of having a “bias” toward Israel’s right to exist.
A spokesperson for Labour pushed back at criticism Corbyn was comparing Israel to the Nazis.
“Jeremy was describing conditions of occupations in WWII in Europe, of which there are multiple examples, not comparing the Israeli state to Nazis,” Sky News quoted the spokesperson saying.
The comments are only the latest round in a long-running crisis for the party, with a constant stream of members and prominent officials being forced out or chastised for making anti-Semitic and virulent anti-Israel comments, and Corbyn himself criticized for tolerating and/or being part of the problem. The fracas has seen excoriation from rabbis, including Britain’s chief rabbi, as well as from some of Labour’s own MPs, charging that the party and its leader seem unable or unwilling to decisively excise anti-Semitic members and sentiments from Labour’s ranks.
In a full-page advertisement published Friday in the Scottish edition of the Jewish Telegraph, a former leader of the Scottish Labour Party criticized Labour and Corbyn personally for their handling of anti-Semitism in the party.
“The Labour Party should have an important role in challenging anti-Semitism,” Jim Murphy wrote. “But instead, my party now appears to have deliberately turned its back on British Jewry. It’s as inexplicable as it is destructive.”
Murphy took aim at Corbyn personally, accusing him of “not doing nearly enough to throw out the anti-Semites found within grassroots and online Labour.”
At the heart of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis is the party’s refusal to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, instead leaving out four of the 11 examples included in the definition. All four relate to unfair singling out of Israel or questioning the loyalty of Jews who support Israel.
The party was called to task on the issue Tuesday by the British delegation to the IHRA, saying in a statement published by the Guardian that “any ‘modified’ version of the IHRA definition that does not include all of its 11 examples is no longer the IHRA definition. Adding or removing language undermines the months of international diplomacy and academic rigor that enabled this definition to exist. If one organization or institution can amend the wording to suit its own needs, then logically anyone else could do the same. We would once again revert to a world where anti-Semitism goes unaddressed simply because different entities cannot agree on what it is.”
The left-leaning British daily also reported Tuesday on the challenges and foot-dragging underway in Labour’s National Executive Council over expelling members who express or facilitate anti-Semitic sentiments in the party.
Of the 70 cases of anti-Semitic expressions by party members sent to the NEC by party officials for consideration, “only a minority were considered by the NEC because of time constraints,” the Guardian says.
The complaints included Labour members who claimed that the Israel lobby had invented the anti-Semitism crisis, or that Hitler’s policy on Zionism “might not be mutually exclusive with his later actions” (i.e., the extermination of Europe’s Jews), among others.
One unnamed Labour source assured the paper that efforts to expel offending members would be sped up in the near future.
“The new code of conduct means we will not have to go to the full NEC disputes committee, but a smaller antisemitism subgroup. It will mean we have the potential to kick people out super fast, instead of waiting months for a full disputes meeting and just getting through 11 of 70.”
On Monday the Labour Party said it will take no action against Jewish MP Margaret Hodge who called party leader Jeremy Corbyn an “anti-Semite and a racist,” amid the simmering scandal.
It was not clear what form the investigation had taken, or whether in fact the charges against her had simply been dropped.
On July 17, Hodge confronted Corbyn in parliament after the party adopted new guidelines on anti-Semitism which have been criticized as too weak and falling short of a widely accepted formulation. Speaking inside the parliament chamber, but out of range of media, Hodge told Corbyn he was an “anti-Semite and a racist.”
She said: “You have proved you don’t want people like me in the party.”
“I’m sorry you feel like that,” Corbyn reportedly responded.
“It is not what you say but what you do, and by your actions you have shown you are an anti-Semitic racist,” Hodge then said.