BRITISH Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has clashed with the Israeli Prime Minister as a row escalated over his presence at an event which included the honouring of a Palestinian suspected of involvement in the Munich Olympics massacre.
Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr Corbyn deserved “unequivocal condemnation”, accusing him of laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the 1972 atrocity in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed, at a Tunisian cemetery in 2014.
The Israeli PM also criticised the Labour leader for drawing parallels between Israeli actions against Palestinians and Nazi atrocities.
Mr Corbyn hit back in the Twitter spat, saying the accusations were “false” and blasting Netanyahu’s policies in Gaza.
Mr Corbyn had earlier said he had been present when a wreath was laid to “those that were killed in Paris in 1992”, but he did not “think” he was involved in laying it during a controversial visit to the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery.
Labour said he attended the event only to remember victims of a 1985 Israeli air strike on Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) offices in Tunis.
The plaque near where Corbyn was photographed honours three dead men: Salah Khalaf, who founded Black September; his key aide Fakhri al-Omari; and Hayel Abdel-Hamid, PLO chief of security.
Adjacent to their graves is that of Atef Bseiso, the PLO intelligence chief, who was involved in planning the attack on the Munich Olympics.
All are widely believed to have been assassinated either by the Israeli secret service Mossad or rival Palestinian factions.
Writing on Twitter, Netanyahu said: “The laying of a wreath by Jeremy Corbyn on the graves of the terrorist who perpertrated the Munich massacre and his comparison of Israel to the Nazis deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone – left, right and everything in between.”
Mr Corbyn was quick to deny the claims, saying, “Israeli PM @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.”
Corbyn added further criticism of Israel’s controversial Nation State Law, saying it “discriminates against Israel’s Palestinian minority. “I stand with the tens of thousands of Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel demonstrating for equal rights at the weekend in Tel Aviv”, he said.
A spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn told the Jewish News: “As has been consistently stated, Jeremy Corbyn visited the Palestine National Cemetery in Tunisia to support Palestinian rights and honour the victims of the illegal 1985 airstrike, many of whom were civilians, on the PLO’s headquarters – an attack condemned by the UN.”
“Jeremy did not lay any wreath at the graves of those alleged to have been linked to the Black September organisation or the 1972 Munich killings. He of course condemns that terrible attack, as he does the 1985 bombing.”
The row erupted after the Daily Mail published pictures of the Labour leader holding a wreath in the cemetery, which it said were taken in front of a plaque honouring the founder of Black September.
The Palestinian terrorist group killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Asked about the incident on Monday, Corbyn said, “A wreath was indeed laid by some of those who attended conference to those that were killed in Paris in 1992. “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in [laying] it.
“I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”
Criticism came from the Conservatives and from within Mr Corbyn’s own party. Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger said: “Being ‘present’ is the same as being involved.
“When I attend a memorial, my presence alone, whether I lay a wreath or not, demonstrates my association and support. There can also never be a ‘fitting memorial’ for terrorists. Where is the apology?”
The widows of the Israeli athletes said they were “extremely disturbed” by claims surrounding Corbyn.
Jonathan Goldstein, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, said the revelations showed he was “not fit to be a member of parliament, let alone a national leader”.
“He has spent his entire political career cavorting with conspiracy theorists, terrorists and revolutionaries who seek to undo all the good for which our ancestors have given their lives”.
The pictures emerged amid continuing controversy over Labour’s refusal to adopt in full an international definition of anti-Semitism, including a list of examples of anti-Semitic behaviour.
The revelation of Corbyn’s participation in the ceremony wasn’t the only controversy to engulf the longtime socialist activist last week.
An old clip that surfaced several days earlier showed Corbyn saying in a 2011 interview with the Iranian Press TV station that the BBC has “a bias towards saying that Israel is a democracy in the Middle East, Israel has a right to exist, Israel has its security concerns.”
Separately, the Daily Mail also published on Saturday pictures of Corbyn delivering a speech at the 2010 wedding of Husam Zomlot, a British citizen who has been accused of claiming that Israel is fabricating historical records about the Holocaust in Europe.
Zomlot, a prominent pro-Palestinian activist, told the BBC in 2014 that Israel is “fabricating all these stories about beheading journalists in Iraq … as if they are fabricating also the story of the Holocaust, that it happened in Europe.”
Amid an outcry, he denied that he meant to say that Israel was spreading falsehoods about the genocide.
UK JEWISH NEWS & JTA