Benjamin Netanyahu has dived headlong into the furore engulfing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, revealing the most blatant meddling to-date by Israel in British politics. What’s more, he’s done it armed with lies and distortions.
The Israeli Prime Minister blasted Corbyn for apparently paying tribute to those behind the 1972 Munich massacre in which 11 Israeli Olympic athletes were killed. The allegations were thrown at Corbyn after photographs emerged in the right-wing media of him attending a wreath-laying ceremony in 2014 at a cemetery in Tunisia.
Incorrect reports suggested that Corbyn had joined a ceremony eulogising the Palestinians who took part in the Munich atrocity. Their bodies, though, are buried in Libya, where they were flown after being killed German security forces in an ill-fated attempt to rescue the Israeli athletes. A funeral procession was held from Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square to Sidi Munaidess Cemetery back in 1972.
While Corbyn protested that the Israeli leader’s “claims about my action and words are false,” Netanyahu himself had already taken to the social networks. “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,” he wrote on Twitter.
The wreath laying in question was actually marking the 1985 air strike by Israel on the Tunisian capital which was condemned around the globe at the time. Details of exactly what took place at the memorial ceremony have been confirmed by Dr Mohammed Shtayyeh, a minister from the Palestinian Authority who stood next to Corbyn in 2014.
Despite the Labour leader’s efforts to clear his name, a tsunami of condemnation has been raised on the social networks by supporters of Israel and British politicians, including some within Labour ranks who want to oust Corbyn. The direct involvement of both Israel and Netanyahu in the plot to remove Jeremy Corbyn is now apparent following the Prime Minister’s inaccurate contribution to the Twitter storm which has been concocted with a plethora of fake details.
Corbyn was in Tunisia in 2014 for a conference aimed at solidifying relations between the Palestinian factions Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas, which has effectively formed the government in the Gaza Strip since it won the 2006 Palestinian elections. During the conference, delegates went to the Palestinian cemetery at Hammam Chott to pay tribute to those killed in the 1985 Israeli air strike on what was then the PLO headquarters.
Eight fighter jets of the Israeli Air Force took part in the raid on 1 October 1985; the operation was codenamed Wooden Leg. The F-15s took off from Tel Nor airbase near Tel Aviv and flew low over the Mediterranean Sea to avoid detection by Egyptian, Libyan and US radar. The six-minute attack on the PLO HQ in the seaside town killed 47 people, including 15 Tunisian civilians, and injured another 65.
The rogue action was condemned worldwide; even British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher joined in by criticising the Israelis, something else that Netanyahu has chosen to forget in his rush to attack Corbyn. The UN Security Council also registered its anger and “condemned vigorously the act of armed aggression” by Israel in Resolution 573 on 4 October. Although the US abstained from the 14-0 vote, it did not use its veto to block the resolution, which branded the deed as an “act of armed aggression perpetrated by Israel against Tunisian territory in flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations, international law, and norms of conduct.” US President Ronald Reagan changed his original position, and instead of calling the bombing a “legitimate response,” he said that it “cannot be condoned.”
In their desire not to let the facts spoil a good story, anti-Corbyn individuals and groups have been posturing and gesturing since the Tunisian photographs were published, and calling on Corbyn to resign. Among them has been Home Secretary Sajid Javid, whose Conservative Party has sought to exploit the controversy by choosing — conveniently some might say — to forget Thatcher’s words at the time of the Israeli air strike on Tunisia. The late Prime Minister’s speech was made on the 40th anniversary of the UN, where she contested the assertion of the then Israeli leader Shimon Peres that the attack was justified.
Archives reveal that at a meeting with Peres, held at the UN Plaza Hotel on 23 October, Thatcher is reported (by Charles Powell) to have said that she had “recoiled” from Israel’s attack on Tunis with the killing of many civilians. “There was no legal or historical justification for Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Nor was it right that Israel should now deny the Palestinians the rights which Israel had sought for herself for more than 2,000 years,” she added.
For those left in any doubt at her feelings about the issue, the so-called Iron Lady went on to condemn the Israeli air strike during a meeting in the House of Commons on 29 October when — according to Hansard, the official parliamentary record — she was asked during Prime Minister’s Questions to comment on the Israeli bombing of Tunis. “We have in fact condemned the attack on Tunis,” she told the House.
In conclusion, it is clear that Corbyn did not lay a wreath at the Tunisian graveyard, nor was the event held to commemorate those from the Black September group who carried out the terror attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Their graves are in Libya.
For Corbyn to travel to Tripoli to lay a wreath at the graves of those responsible for the Munich massacre would be regarded as offensive as, for example, Israeli terrorists and their supporters from Irgun gathering annually at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem to celebrate the killing of 91 people, including 28 Britons, in a bomb attack on 22 July, 1946. Oh, but hang on a minute… that’s exactly what has been done in Jerusalem for decades.
While most of the perpetrators were not around for the 70thanniversary of the terrorist atrocity in 2016, a plaque was unveiled by former Irgun terror gang members and right-wing politicians at the King David Hotel ten years earlier on the 60thanniversary. It reads: “The hotel housed the Mandate Secretariat as well as the Army Headquarters. On July 22, 1946, Irgun fighters at the order of the Hebrew Resistance Movement planted explosives in the basement. Warning phone calls had been made urging the hotel’s occupants to leave immediately. For reasons known only to the British, the hotel was not evacuated and after 25 minutes the bombs exploded, and to the Irgun’s regret and dismay 91 persons were killed.”
To kill 91 innocent people and then blame the victims for not acting on the warning is deplorable. But to then go on to hold annual gatherings to commemorate the eventand even unveil a plaque on the 60th anniversary is even more disturbing. Netanyahu and Britain’s anti-Corbyn Lobby should tweet about that.
They won’t, of course, because they are fully at ease with Israel acting with impunity. Even, it must be said, to the extent that its Prime Minister commemorates the killing of British citizens by “Jewish terrorists” in 1946, and interferes blatantly in the affairs of an independent sovereign state as part of the efforts to have the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition discredited and thus less likely to win the next General Election. Such interference in British democracy is totally unacceptable; Netanyahu has dug himself into a hole in a graveyard full of untruths, but Britain, as all Members of Parliament must make clear to Israel’s lobbyists, is not the United States of America. His words just won’t wash here.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.