Corbyn has had to fend off fresh accusations of anti-Semitism after the right-wing Daily Mail reported Friday that, during a visit to Tunisia in 2014, the Labour leader laid a wreath on the graves of a Palestinian group that killed 11 Israeli athletes and a German policeman at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
The report said that the cemetery contained both a memorial to the 47 people killed by an Israeli airstrike on a Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) building in 1985, as well as the graves of members of Black September – a militant group that splintered from the PLO before carrying out the Munich attack. The Daily Mail published pictures purporting to show Corbyn holding a wreath of flowers close to the graves of Black September members.
The Labour Party initially denied the report, stating that Corbyn was present to honor the victims of the 1985 airstrike. Later on Monday, Corbyn clarified: “I was present when (a wreath) was laid, I don’t think I was involved in it,” adding that the visit was a peace-seeking exercise.
Responding, Netanyahu wrote in a tweet: “The laying of a wreath by Jeremy Corbyn on the graves of the terrorists who perpetrated the Munich massacre and his comparison of Israel to the Nazis deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone – left, right and everything in between.”
In turn, Corbyn posted: “Netanyahu’s claims about my actions and words are false. What deserves unequivocal condemnation is the killing of over 160 Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces since March, including dozens of children.”
The spat sparked hundreds of tweets, with the men’s respective supporters attacking each other on social media.
Netanyahu drew support from ex-Sun columnist turned far-right activist Katie Hopkins, and LBC radio presenter James O’Brien, who compared Corbyn to US President Donald Trump.
Others questioned the timing of the Daily Mail’s story, highlighting that Corbyn addressed the visit during a 2017 televised interview, and that it came out just as the Tory party was facing accusations of Islamophobia.
Some then pointed out that Netanyahu isn’t himself a stranger to supporting groups considered terrorists. In July 2006, he attended the ceremony marking 60 years since the bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, carried out by the underground Zionist group Irgun, often referred to as terrorists in Britain. Netanyahu, then-Leader of the opposition, controversially suggested that the bombing, which killed more than 90 people and injured almost five dozens more, was a legitimate act of war, adding that unlike Palestinian bombers elsewhere, the Irgun warned the hotel staff about the planted bomb.
Meanwhile, the veracity of the original Daily Mail piece has been called into question, with Corbyn-supporting EvolvePolitics reporting that no Black September members, or those involved in the Munich attacks, are buried in the cemetery – a point reiterated by the Labour Press team.
The graves in question belong to one-time leading members of the PLO – all of whom have alleged links to Black September but were never proven to be involved in the Munich attack, reported EvolvePolitics.
Labour has been contending with accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at some of its members for months. Previously, Corbyn has apologized for what he has labelled “pockets” of anti-Semitism in the party.
Corbyn has also consistently advocated dialogue with those often considered by the British state as terrorists in order to foster peace, leading to numerous accusations that he is sympathising with terrorists.
Despite the recent furore, the latest poll by BMG Research put the Labour Party on 39 percent support – two points ahead of the Conservatives, who dropped down to 37.
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