Jeremy Corbyn admits being present at wreath-laying for Munich terrorists but says 'I don't think I was actually involved in it'

Labour leader confirms he attended ceremony where 'wreath was laid' for attackers who murdered 11 Israeli athletes

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Monday 13 August 2018 13:57 BST
Jeremy Corbyn: I was “present” when the wreath was laid “I don’t think I was actually involved in it.”

Jeremy Corbyn has admitted attending a ceremony for the terrorists behind the Munich massacre, but denied laying a wreath himself.

The Labour leader said he was “present” at a memorial event commemorating those responsible for the 1972 attack, despite his office previously insisting he was only at the event in question honouring Palestinians killed in an Israeli air strike.

Mr Corbyn was forced to explain himself after pictures showed him holding a wreath next to a memorial plaque for the perpetrators of the Munich attack.

The latest row has fuelled the Labour party’s antisemitism crisis, with a senior Labour MP saying “there can never be a ‘fitting memorial’ to terrorists”.

Speaking for the first time since the images emerged, Mr Corbyn told Sky News: “A wreath was indeed laid by some of those who attended the conference for those who were killed in Paris in 1992.”

The reference to Paris is understood to relate to Atef Bseiso, widely considered to have been involved in masterminding the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

Bseiso was killed in the French capital in 1992 in what was believed to be an Israeli assassination, although the country denied involvement and said he had been murdered by a rival PLO faction.

Asked whether he was involved in the wreath laying in relation to the Munich terrorists, Mr Corbyn said: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it.”

He added: “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. They only way you pursue peace is by a cycle of dialogue.”

Mr Corbyn’s team had previously insisted he had only laid a wreath at another memorial – to pay tribute to the 47 Palestinians killed in an Israeli air strike on a PLO base in Tunisia in 1985.

But images published by the Daily Mail show him holding a wreath in 2014 next to the memorial to the Munich bombers, with the paper claiming the memorial for the victims of the 1985 attack is 15 feet away, in a different part of the Palestinian Martyrs Cemetery in Tunisia.

Mr Corbyn also made reference a wreath being laid for Bseiso in an article for the Morning Star in 2014.

He wrote: “After 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, we moved to the poignant statue in the main avenue of the coastal town of Ben Arous, which was festooned with Palestinian and Tunisian flags.”

The mention of the 1991 killing is believed to be a mistake and instead refer to the death of Bseiso in 1992.

Bseiso was the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) head of intelligence and is widely believed to have played a key role in planning the attack.

Labour MP Luciana Berger, the parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, criticised Mr Corbyn’s latest comments.

She 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 never be a ‘fitting memorial’ for terrorists. Where is the apology?”

Jeremy Corbyn releases video apologising for antisemitism in the Labour party

The Munich massacre saw 11 members of the terrorist group “Black September” torture 11 Israeli athletes in their Olympic Village apartment before murdering them.

The widows of two of the athletes murdered in the attack expressed outrage at the photos of Mr Corbyn standing next to Bseiso’s grave.

Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, whose husbands Andre and Yossef were among 11 athletes murdered, told Jewish News: ”We do not recall a visit of Mr Corbyn to the graves of our murdered fathers, sons and husbands.

“They only went to the Olympic Games in order to participate in this festival of love, peace and brotherhood; but they all returned home in coffins.

“For Mr Corbyn to honour these terrorists is the ultimate act of maliciousness, cruelty and stupidity.”

And they added: “Do not forget, Mr Corbyn, that you will be judged by the company you keep.”

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, suggested Mr Corbyn should quit over the issue.

He wrote on Twitter: ”If this was the leader of any other major political party, he or she would be gone by now.”

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