This morning, The Jewish Chronicle published a story with the headline ‘Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for Israeli embassy car bombing pair’, stating that the Labour leadership candidate had been “a leading activist in the campaign for the release of two people who were jailed for their involvement in the bombing of a Jewish charity building and the Israeli embassy in London.”
The two people in question, Jawad Botmeh and Samar Alami, were found guilty in 1996 of conspiracy to cause explosions in the UK, following car bomb attacks two years previously outside the Israeli Embassy and Balfour House in London which injured 19. Both maintained their innocence throughout and, though losing appeals, were subsequently released early on parole.
The paper describes Corbyn as having “repeatedly raised the case in Parliament as part of the long-running campaign to overturn their convictions as a miscarriage of justice”, as well as having “signed five early day motions in support of their case between 2002 and 2006”, and supported Botmeh in a subsequent employment dispute at London Metropolitan University.
The article was written by the paper’s staff journalist Marcus Dysch, his ninth piece on Corbyn in the last two weeks. Dysch’s approach is sometimes too much even for editor Stephen Pollard, such as the reporter’s recent description of Deir Yassin as merely an “alleged” massacre.
At a similar time to Dysch’s report going live, an item on the same topic appeared on the pro-Israel blog Harry’s Place (which has been smearing Corbyn for years). The story itself, however, appears to originate with a post published on Sunday by a blog called ‘Denry’, whose author now prefers anonymity, but who previously blogged under the name of Sam Green.
This would appear to be the same Sam Green who in 2014 wrote for right-wing magazine Standpoint about a complaint he had made to the BBC, regarding coverage he deemed unfair to Israel. Green also shared details of the case with BBC Watch, an affiliate of Israel advocacy group CAMERA.
Corbyn’s support for Botmeh and Alami is a matter of record. But it comes as no surprise that The Jewish Chronicle, and the others, have neglected to mention some rather key aspects of the case – including the fact that Amnesty International were among those who questioned the convictions.
In their 1997 annual report, Amnesty International stated that “the pre-trial investigation gave rise to concerns that the charges may have been politically motivated.” In 2001, Amnesty repeated its concerns that the pair had been “denied their right to a fair trial”, and said “crucial questions” remained “unanswered”, including “the role of the various intelligence services, the actions of the Israeli embassy including in the investigation, and the nature of the initial police investigation.”
In 2000, The Guardian reported how “the avowed innocence of Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh…have become a cause”, while a year later, the paper described the case as “a cause célèbre among civil rights groups.” The paper noted how former cabinet minister Lord Gilmour was one of Alami’s sureties, and that in addition to Corbyn, support also came from MPs Harry Cohen and Tony Benn – “as well as Jewish and Arab activists.”
Others who supported the pair over the years included Paul Foot, and Gareth Peirce who, a 2004 interview noted, had “campaigned on behalf of Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh, whom she believes were wrongly convicted.” In 1999, Peirce addressed a 200-strong public meeting at the House of Commons in support of the pair. Even the Daily Express described the pair has having “gained far-reaching support” from various groups.
From the very beginning, as Robert Fisk wrote in 1998, the trial was widely seen as “a very puzzling affair.” Two years ago, a piece in the London Review of Books on the employment dispute referred to by The Jewish Chronicle, noted how “Botmeh and Alami’s convictions have widely been branded as unsafe.”
Even at Westminster, Corbyn was hardly alone when it came to concern about the pair’s case. The five EDMs that he signed accumulatively attracted the support of a further 71 MPs (including Labour, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru, and even a Conservative). The most popular of those EDMs secured 43 names alone.
In addition, the primary sponsor of all five was not Corbyn, but former Labour MP John Austin (Corbyn, along with others, was a co-sponsor of the most recent). You can find the relevant EDMs online in chronological order here, here, here, here, and here.
Almost a month ago now, I wrote how the Corbyn campaign had already become a parody of itself. That does not appear to have dissuaded the die-hard mud-slingers – but encouragingly, it has also failed to make much of an impact in support for his leadership bid.