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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Jeremy Corbyn trades barbs with Netanyahu on Middle East violence

Britain’s opposition leader and the Israeli PM clashed over a visit to a cemetery where Palestinian terrorists were buried

Mr Corbyn has previously apologised for what he has described as “pockets” of anti-semitism in the Labour party, AP Photo/Matt Dunham
Mr Corbyn has previously apologised for what he has described as “pockets” of anti-semitism in the Labour party, AP Photo/Matt Dunham

A furore over alleged anti-semitism in Britain’s main opposition party widened on Monday when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn exchanged accusations on Twitter over Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed.

Labour has been wrestling accusations of anti-semitism for months, and Mr Corbyn has previously apologised for what he has described as “pockets” of anti-semitism in the organisation.

Britain’s Daily Mail on Friday reported that Mr Corbyn, on a visit to Tunisia in 2014, had laid a wreath at the graves of members of a Palestinian group that killed 11 Israeli athletes and a German policeman at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

It said the cemetery houses a memorial to the dozens killed in the 1985 Israeli bombing of the Palestine Liberation Organisation headquarters in exile in Tunis, as well as the graves of members of Black September, a PLO splinter group that carried out the Munich attack.

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Daily Mail published a photograph it said showed Mr Corbyn standing near the graves of Black September members.

Labour said Mr Corbyn, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, was in Tunis to honour the victims of the 1985 raid.

Unimpressed, Mr Netanyahu said in a tweet:

“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.”

Mr Corbyn responded: “Netanyahu’s claims about my actions and words are false. What deserves unequivocal condemnation is the killing of over 160 Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces since March, including dozens of children.”

The Labour party said Mr Corbyn did not lay a wreath at the graves of anyone linked to Black September and he condemned the Munich attack. Mr Corbyn, however, told reporters on Monday: “I was present when [a wreath] was laid, I don’t think I was involved in it,” adding that the visit was a peace-seeking exercise.

Despite deep divisions in the Conservative government as it negotiates Britain’s exit from the European Union, Labour’s poll standing appears to have been damaged by the anti-semitism row.

A YouGov poll last week showed that 39 per cent of those asked would vote for the Conservatives, a gain of one point for May’s party compared to last week when the two biggest parties were level. Labour dropped three points to 35 per cent.