NOTE: Please give a read to my latest Middle East Eye piece, which critiques the anti-Semitism charges levelled at the UK Labour Party.
First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way. Everyone and their brother in the UK (at least the tabloid media and pro-Israel hacks) has got it into their heads that Jeremy Corbyn laid a wreath on the grave of the Palestinian mastermind of the Munich massacre while visiting Tunisia in 2013. Is any of this true? Well, yeah, some of it. He was in Tunisia. He did lay a wreath. He did honor the memories of dead Palestinians. But nothing beyond that is true. He laid a wreath that commemorated the 60 Palestinians and Tunisians who died in an Israeli revenge attack on PLO headquarters in Tunis.
What else is true? That Abu Iyad (aka Salah Khalaf), Arafat’s former deputy assassintated by the Israelis in 1991, is buried in the same cemetery. Here is how Sky News described it:
It appears one of the graves Corbyn is standing near is that of Salah Khalaf, a senior figure in the PLO who is accused of involvement in the Munich attacks and was behind moves to end Palestinian armed struggle and begin negotiations with Israel.
Corbyn did not lay a wreath at his grave. Saying that he honored a Palestinian terrorist is like saying that because you attended a family member’s funeral at a cemetery where a murderer is buried that you honored a murderer’s memory simply by being there. Does that mean that every politician who ever attends a funeral or memorial service needs to vet the graves of everyone in the cemetery to ensure it won’t come back to haunt them?
Let’s not forget that last sentence in the passage above about Khalaf’s role in ending armed struggle. Here is an Israeli expert on the PLO putting the Palestinian’s role in perspective:
Yair Wallach, a senior lecturer on Israel and Palestine at SOAS, said had he not been killed in 1991, Khalaf would likely have been negotiating with Israel and other states with senior Palestinian figures.
What About Israel’s Terrorist Leaders?
Before we get into high dudgeon over this, let’s remember that many Israeli presidents and prime ministers have blood on their hands–terrorist blood. Yitzhak Shamir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Ben Tzvi all ordered the murders, bombings and assassinations of both British and Palestinian civilians. Ben Tzvi even ordered the assassination of a Palestinian Jew, Jacob DeHaan, who he deemed a threat to the early Yishuv political movement because he was anti-Zionist.
These men are lionized by the Israeli state and its citizens. They are heroes of the nation. Israelis flock to their graves in droves and opine upon their role in building the nascent state. Why do we hypocritically condemn someone like Corbyn for holding sympathies for Palestinian dead, while ignoring the exact same behavior by Israelis? It’s beyond hypocrisy. In fact, it’s an outrage.
Not to mention the wars and assassinations which Netanyahu himself has approved. He is personally responsible for creating as much or more suffering than any previous Israeli prime minister. Why shouldn’t we condemn him as roundly as others condemn Corbyn? But we don’t, do we? Corbyn at least has never ordered anyone assassinated. He’s never ordered an invasion of any foreign country. All of which Bibi has done in spades.
Not only is this Tunis charge completely fabricated, the incident in question is known, and Corbyn has spoken about it and explained it in a TV interview over a year ago. Considering that Corbyn wouldn’t have known who the Palestinian was nor his role in the Munich massacre, the Labour leader likely had no idea of the import or the ceremony or its context.
The laying of a wreath by Jeremy Corbyn on the graves of the terrorist who perpetrated the Munich massacre and his comparison of Israel to the Nazis deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone – left, right and everything in between
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) August 13, 2018
A Labour Party spokesperson released this statement:
“As has been consistently stated, Jeremy Corbyn visited the Palestine National Cemetery in Tunisia to support Palestinian rights and honour the victims of the illegal 1985 airstrike, many of whom were civilians, on the PLO’s headquarters – an attack condemned by the UN.”
Netanyahu Enters the Fray
Now here’s where things get really interesting: Bibi Netanyahu has weighed in and attacked Corbyn as an anti-Semite. To understand what this means, you have to understand how Bibi works. His modus operandi is to work behind the scenes to achieve his objective. He waits until he has done so, and when the moment is right he makes a dramatic entrance to seal the deal. Yes, he’s a showman. The kind of guy we once called a used car salesman.
All this raises the question: what role has the Israeli government played in this campaign? Those who’ve seen the four-part Al Jazeera documentary, The Lobby, know that an Israeli spy using diplomatic cover organized infiltrations of both the Labour and Conservative Parties in order to sabotage the careers of those deemed “enemies of Israel.” So they not only conspired against Tory Deputy Foreign Minister Alan Duncan; but they conspired against Corbyn as well. The TV program unmasked the spy and the Israelis sent him packing.
But the game wasn’t over by any means. The May government did nothing after it found out that the Israeli government was meddling in domestic UK politics. Israel paid no price. So of course the shenanigans continue. No one knows what specific role Israel is playing in the current charade also known as the anti-Semitism witch hunt. But you can rest assured that it is playing a significant one. My guess is that the Tunisia card is one engineered by Netanyahu. He allowed it to play out for a day or two and then made his Big Move.
He entered the fray as the Protector of the Jewish People by denouncing Corbyn (in the above tweet). Corbyn has counterattacked in his own tweet replying to Netanyahu:
Israeli PM @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.https://t.co/H5nXqi3pnU
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) August 13, 2018
Finally, let’s just reiterate something I’ve documented here many times: Bibi is a liar. He’s a more convincing liar than Donald Trump, who doesn’t seem to care that everyone knows he’s lying as soon as the words emerge from his mouth. At least Bibi (on the surface) makes a convincing case that he’s telling the truth (until you examine his claims). But he’s lying nevertheless.
My friend, Uri Horesh, tweeted the best Bibi-burn :
אתה פשיסט. של נעליך מעל רגליך בדברך על קורבין.
— Uri Horesh (@urihoresh) August 13, 2018
He invoked God’s admonition to Moses at the Burning Bush. As Moses approached, God told him he was on holy ground and must remove the shoes on his feet in recognition of his proximity to the Divine. Uri tweets (a rough translation): “You are a fascist. Remove the shoes off your feet before you say a word concerning Corbyn.”
Will Britons Really Care?
But the most important question is: what impact will Bibi’s attack have? And does Bibi even care? The answer is little or none; and No. Britons aren’t exactly clamoring to hear what the Israeli premier has to say on any subject. He’s not especially popular in England. And the notion that anyone in the UK cares about what he has to say about Corbyn is ludicrous. So why did Bibi do it? Partly to polish his reputation as a Defender of the Jews writ large, which bolsters support among his domestic constituency. It will also play well among his wealthy supporters in the Diaspora.
Bibi’s only goal here is to savage Corbyn as an Israel hater. He desperately wants to hammer a nail in his coffin. But the truth is that Bibi piling on to Corbyn in this manner is very likely to have the opposite effect. The English will likely turn and say: “who is this bugger to put his nose where it doesn’t belong? I can make my own mind up without his help.” It very well could provoke a backlash. Personally, Netanyahu’s direct involvement in the this whole flim-flam charade indicates he and all those propagating it have jumped the shark. It has now gone from sham to simply preposterous.
Remember when Netanyahu stuck his nose into the affairs of French Jewry after it had suffered several Islamist terror attacks? He went to France and told French Jews from a synagogue pulpit that there was no future for them in their native land, and that they must make aliyah or be consigned to oblivion. After that, not only did the French president roundly excoriate him to his intemperance, but French Jews didn’t respond either. There was a one year spike in aliyah which eventually returned emigration numbers to their former level after peace and security returned to the community. When Bibi wades into a political firestorm abroad the impact of his engagement has the shelf life of day-old fish.
Torygraph Weighs In
In the latest sordid development in this manufactured scandal, the Telegraph (aka “Torygraph) has published a picture of Jeremy Corbyn outside the Finsbury Mosque. He is making a gesture with four fingers of his hand, which Ali Abunimah tells me indicates solidarity with the 1,000 Egyptians who were murdered in cold blood by al-Sisi’s thugs after he overthrew the duly elected government. Though many of those murdered were Muslim Brotherhood supporters, by no means all were.
Contrary to what the lying Telegraph reports, Corbyn’s gesture does not indicate support for the Brotherhood. It indicates support for victims of a brutal massacre by the Egyptian military junta. It is shameful that Britons permit the tabloid press to make up facts out of whole cloth in this fashion. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first or last time that British press broadcasts Islamophobic headlines and manufactured claims.
I suppose the only thing to do now is to finally admit that Jeremy Corbyn was been kidnapped by ISIS and replaced by a Manchurian Muslim lookalike who, on winning the election will declare a Muslim caliphate and welcome ISIS to take over Britain. I tried to keep this secret as long as I could in order to help the plot along. But I just couldn’t hold it in any longer.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Tories and Israel Lobby are so desperate to defeat Corbyn by hook or by crook. Republicans and their Israel Lobby allies in the U.S. engaged in the very same smear campaign against Barack Obama in 2008. Remember? He wasn’t really a Christian as he claimed. He was a closet Muslim. His middle name gave him away. He wasn’t born in the U.S. He was born in Kenya…or Indonesia. He hated Israel (because he was Muslim). They were all lies. And they didn’t work.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.