Jeremy Corbyn admits laying wreath following Twitter spat with Israeli PM

Jeremy Corbyn has admitted laying a wreath at an event that included tributes to members of a terrorist group that carried out the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, killing 11 Israeli athletes. 

However the Labour leader says he did so to commemorate those killed in a 1985 Israeli air raid, and refused to apologise for his presence. 

He told Channel 4 News: ‘I witnessed many other people laying many wreaths.

‘I laid one wreath along with many other people, as I have said, in memory of all those who died in the awful attack in 1985, which, as I keep repeating, was condemned by the whole world.’

He added: ‘No, I’m not apologising for being there at all.’

Mr Corbyn become embroiled in an astonishing Twitter row with the prime minister of Israel as the row over the laying of the wreath went global.

Jeremy Corbyn has become embroiled in a Twitter spat with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Rex)

Benjamin Netanyahu hit out at the his presence at an event which included a commemorations of a Palestinian suspected of involvement in the Munich Olympics massacre.

Mr Netanyahu said Mr Corbyn deserved ‘unequivocal condemnation’, accusing him of laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the atrocity.

He also criticised Mr Corbyn for drawing parallels between Israeli actions against Palestinians and Nazi atrocities.

Mr Corbyn hit back in the Twitter spat, saying the accusations were ‘false’ and blasting Mr Netanyahu’s policies in Gaza.

Mr Corbyn had earlier said he had been present when a wreath was laid to ‘those that were killed in Paris in 1992’, but he did not ‘think’ he was involved in laying it.

Labour said he attended the event only to remember victims of a an Israeli air strike on Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) offices in Tunis.

Israeli secret service Mossad was accused of killing terrorists behind the Olympics attack, including Atef Bseiso, a PLO intelligence chief, who was killed in the French capital in 1992.

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The Labour leader faced calls to quit on Monday over his visit to the cemetery in Tunis four years ago.

The row erupted after the Daily Mail published pictures of the Labour leader holding a wreath, which it said were taken in front of a plaque honouring the founder of Palestinian terrorist group Black September.

Asked about the incident during a visit to Walsall on Monday, Mr Corbyn said: ‘A wreath was indeed laid by some of those who attended conference to those that were killed in Paris in 1992.

Mr Netanyahu said Mr Corbyn deserved ‘unequivocal condemnation’ for laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the Munich Olympics massacre (Rex)
The Labour leader lashed out at the Israeli PM’s policies in Gaza (Rex)

‘I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it (laying it).

‘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. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.’

Criticism of his actions came from the Conservatives and from within Mr Corbyn’s own party.

Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger said that ‘being ‘present’ is the same as being involved’, and Conservative MP Nadine Dorries accused Mr Corbyn of supporting ‘the terrorist cause of the moment’. 

The widows of the Israeli athletes said they were ‘extremely disturbed’ by claims about the visit.

Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said the row showed Mr Corbyn was ‘unfit for senior public office, never mind his position as the official Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition’.

The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, said Mr Corbyn should apologise for his attendance at the Palestinian memorial ceremony.

She told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘He is completely evasive. This Twitter war with Benjamin Netanyahu clearly shows his lack of credibility..

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: ‘Jeremy did not lay any wreath at the graves of those alleged to have been linked to the Black September organisation or the 1972 Munich killings.

Labour has been hit by a swathe of anti-Semitism accusations (Rex)

‘He of course condemns that terrible attack, as he does the 1985 bombing.’

Mr Corbyn said last year he had spoken at the conference and ‘I laid a wreath to all those that had died in the air attack that took place on Tunis, on the headquarters of the Palestinian organisations there’.

Writing in the Morning Star at the time of the visit, Mr Corbyn said wreaths had been laid not only at the memorial, but also ‘on the graves of others killed by Mossad agents in Paris in 1991’.

The pictures emerged amid continuing controversy over Labour’s refusal to adopt in full an international definition of anti-Semitism, including a list of examples of anti-Semitic behaviour.