(JTA) – Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, denied reports that in 2014 he honoured a Palestinian perpetrator of the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
Corbyn, who became the head of Labour in 2015, is a hard-left politician whom the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said “most people in the Jewish community can’t trust” because of his praise for Hezbollah and Hamas and perceived failures in addressing anti-Semitic rhetoric by some of his supporters.
An article published in the Sunday Times this week quotes an October 2014 column Corbyn wrote for the Morning Star in which he recounted attending a ceremony in Tunisia “where wreaths were laid … on the graves of [those] killed by Mossad agents in Paris in 1991.”
This prompted speculation that Corbyn, whose party will contend in the general election on June 8 against the ruling Conservative Party, had honoured the memory of Atef Bseiso, who was head of intelligence for the PLO and was involved in the murder of the Israeli athletes as part of the 1972 Black September terrorist operation in Munich. Bseiso was killed in Paris in 1992.
But spokespeople for Corbyn told Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush that “Jeremy Corbyn condemns the Munich massacre and its perpetrators, and that what he was attending was not anything to do with perpetrator Atef Bseiso, but an event to commemorate the 1985 bombing of the PLO headquarters,” according to a statement Monday by the board.
“Whilst of a different order, this would still be a matter of concern to us,” the board statement read, recalling that 1985 bombing by Israel “was a retaliation against the PLO-inspired murders of 15 Israeli civilians in Palestinian terror attacks the previous month.”
Corbyn, the board also said, “has too often in the past been in sympathetic encounters with terrorist individuals and organizations, with the by-product of lending legitimacy to their violence. This new revelation follows part of that disturbing pattern.”
Corbyn last year said he regrets calling Hezbollah and Hamas his friends during a speech in parliament.
In 2010, Corbyn said about Hamas during a television interview: ‘You have to recognize that the reality is they have a great deal of support, they have a great deal of respect from a lot of Palestinians who wouldn’t necessarily politically agree with them but recognize they are serious, hard-working and they are not corrupt.”