Corbyn wreath-laying controversy

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On 15 August 2018, a British political controversy was initiated when the Daily Mail claimed that, prior to becoming Labour Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn had been present at a 2014 wreath-laying at a cemetery which contained the graves of many Palestinian activists including Salah Khalaf and Atef Bseiso, both of whom were members of the Black September terrorist organization and were allegedly behind the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics, though this has been disputed in the case of Bseiso[1]. The wreath-laying took place during a commemorative ceremony for victims of the 1985 Israeli air strikes on the PLO headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, which had been widely condemned at the time, including by the U.S. Government.[2] Corbyn and the Conservative peer Baron Sheikh had been in Tunisia to attend the International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression.[3] The controversy was considered to be part of a wider series of issues relating to claims of antisemitism in the Labour party and Corbyn's personal position on the Middle East, which have escalated since Corbyn became a front-runner for Labour Party leader in August 2015.[4]

Conference[edit]

Corbyn and the Conservative peer Lord Sheikh and Liberal Democrat peer Baron Andrew Phillips were in Tunisia to attend the "International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression", organised by the Centre for Strategic Studies for North Africa.[5] According to Sheikh, representatives of Hamas "may" have been present, although he denies having met them.[3] Following these revelations, Conservative MPs Robert Halfon (a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel) and Zac Goldsmith called for an investigation into Lord Sheikh's appearance there, arguing that attending the conference was a breach of the party's code of conduct and that a failure of the party to investigate Sheikh would be seen as hypocritical.[6] Lord Sheikh denied any wrongdoing, calling the complaints "trivial" and "politically motivated" following Sheikh's condemnation of Johnson's controversial remarks regarding the niqab/burqa.[7]

Ceremony[edit]

Corbyn holding a wreath at Hamman Chott Cemetery, Tunis, 2014

On 15 August 2018 the Daily Mail claimed that Corbyn had instead been pictured 15 yards (14 m) away from the memorial for the air strike victims while holding a wreath near the graves of Salah Khalaf and Atef Bseiso (senior leaders of Fatah and PLO in the early 1970s) who Israel believe were involved in the Black September Organization responsible for the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, in which eleven Israelis were killed (though none of those physically involved in the killings at Munich were buried in Tunisia).[8][9] In a 2014 write-up of the event for the Morning Star, Corbyn wrote that "wreaths were laid at the graves of those who died on that day and on the graves of others killed by Mossad agents in Paris in 1991". Corbyn has not confirmed who he was referring to in this article (Bseiso was killed in Paris in 1992, and Khalaf was assassinated in Tunisia in 1991).[5]

Also on 15 August 2018 the BBC News filmed a report from inside the Hamman Chott Cemetery, showing where Corbyn would have likely stood within the designated area where all dignitaries typically stand on an annual basis to remember those who were killed in the Israel airstrike in 1985 and for senior members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, under the small covered area of the enclosed Palestinian section of the cemetery, which also covers the graves of Bseiso and Khalaf.[10]

There was condemnation from some of the British and Jewish press, as well as from some members of the Labour Party and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.[11][12][13] Jonathan Goldstein, the head of the Jewish Leadership Council, said Corbyn's alleged participation in an event honoring the Munich terrorists is a "defining moment, typifying and showing his great hostility towards Israel and, through Israel, to the Jewish people".[14] Goldstein criticized Corbyn's refusal to apologise to the Munich Massacre widows and called it "un-British".[14] A Labour party spokesperson stated "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."[15][16] Corbyn stated "I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere".[15][16]

The Labour Party made a complaint to the press watchdog Independent Press Standards Organisation regarding stories in the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Express and the Metro newspapers, arguing that these organisations "seriously misrepresented the event" and "underplayed the role of mainstream Palestinian leaders conducting the ceremony",[17] although the complaint was later dropped.[18]

Funding of trip[edit]

In August 2018 Corbyn was reported to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and might in consequence face a parliamentary inquiry into claims that he failed to declare who paid for his Tunisia trip in accordance with parliamentary requirements.[19][20] Corbyn had not registered the visit or any payment for it within the House of Commons register of members' interests. The Labour Party claims that the costs of the trip were under the £660 limit at which a declaration should be made. Sheikh, who traveled to Tunis to attend the same conference, but has stated that he was unaware of a wreath laying ceremony, reported that the Tunisian government underwrote his expenses.[20][3][21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bergman, Ronen (2018). Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations. Hachette UK. ISBN 978-1-473-69472-9.
  2. ^ Lee, Georgina (16 August 2018). "FactCheck: Jeremy Corbyn and the wreath row". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Watts, Joe (14 June 2014). "Tory peer admits he was also at Palestinian conference at centre of Jeremy Corbyn's wreath-laying controversy". The Independent. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  4. ^ Hirsh, David (2017). Contemporary Left Antisemitism (1 ed.). Routledge.
  5. ^ a b "Jeremy Corbyn wreath row explained". BBC. 15 August 2018. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  6. ^ "MPs demand probe into Tory colleague Lord Sheikh over Tunis conference trip". The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Press Association. 15 August 2018. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  7. ^ Zeffman, Henry (16 August 2018). "Lord Sheikh says he is being punished for criticising Boris Johnson's Muslim veil remarks". The Times. Retrieved 16 August 2018. (Subscription required (help)).
  8. ^ "Proof Corbyn WAS standing at terrorists grave for wreath-laying". Daily Mail. 15 August 2018. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  9. ^ Sabbagh, Dan (14 August 2018). "Labour hits out at 'false' claims over Corbyn cemetery visit". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  10. ^ "Inside the Jeremy Corbyn wreath row cemetery in Tunisia". 15 August 2018. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  11. ^ Hope, Christopher (28 May 2007). "Corbyn condemned by his own party for attending wreath-laying ceremony for Palestinian terror chief". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  12. ^ "UK Labour leader Corbyn denies honoring Munich Olympics terrorist". Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  13. ^ Kentish, Benjamin. "Benjamin Netanyahu says Jeremy Corbyn deserves 'unequivocal condemnation' for attending memorial to Munich terrorists". The Independent. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  14. ^ a b Philpot, Robert (17 August 2018). "UK Jewish leader calls Corbyn premiership an 'existential threat' to community". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  15. ^ a b Sabbagh, Dan (13 August 2018). "Jeremy Corbyn: I was present at wreath-laying but don't think I was involved". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  16. ^ a b "Jeremy Corbyn 'thinks' he did not lay wreath to Palestinian terrorists". sky.com. 13 August 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Labour complains to regulator over coverage of cemetery visit". Guardian News and Media Limited. 16 August 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  18. ^ "Conservative conference: Ruth Davidson calls for 'practical, pragmatic' Brexit - Politics live".
  19. ^ Anshel Pfeffer, Jerusalem, Oliver Wright, Policy Editor | (15 August 2018). "Jeremy Corbyn faces inquiry after failing to declare Tunisia visit expenses". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 15 August 2018.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ a b Proctor, Kate (14 August 2014). "Jeremy Corbyn could face probe over not declaring trip to wreath ceremony for Munich killers". Evening Standard. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  21. ^ Hope, Christopher (18 August 2018). "Jeremy Corbyn facing questions over whether he broke parliamentary rules by not declaring ten trips". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 August 2018.

External links[edit]

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