JERUSALEM (JTA) — British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn met with the leader-in-exile of a Palestinian terror group in 2014 weeks before its members carried out an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue in which six people were killed.
Last week, The Times of London published a picture of Corbyn standing next to that leader, Maher al Taher of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, at a 2014 commemoration ceremony for the Black September terrorists who took part in the 1972 massacre of 11 Israelis at the Munich Olympics.
Corbyn’s participation in the event, in which he was photographed laying a wreath near the terrorists’ grave, has caused an international uproar, provoking fierce reactions from British Jews and Israeli politicians.
In November 2014, two Palestinian assailants armed with a gun, axes and knives entered the Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood and began killing indiscriminately. Five worshippers — including three Americans and a British citizen — and a Druze police officer who responded to the incident were killed. Police killed both assailants, who were identified as residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber.
Corbyn has attempted to downplay his involvement in the wreath-laying ceremony, telling Sky News that “I was present when [the wreath] was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it.”
He has also gone on the offensive against critics, issuing a scathing critique of Israel after being publicly reprimanded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week. Corbyn said Netanyahu’s “claims about my actions and words are false” and that “what deserves unequivocal condemnation is the killing of over 160 Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces since March, including dozens of children.”
The revelation of Corbyn’s participation in the ceremony wasn’t the only controversy to engulf the longtime socialist activist last week. An old clip that surfaced several days earlier showed Corbyn saying in a 2011 interview with the Iranian Press TV station that the BBC has “a bias towards saying that Israel is a democracy in the Middle East, Israel has a right to exist, Israel has its security concerns.”
These revelations follow intense scrutiny of Corbyn’s past and present statements about Israel and his alleged failure to curb resurgent anti-Semitism within his party. Last month, Labour pointedly decided not to adopt parts of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism that related to Israel.
A hard-left politician who has called Hezbollah and Hamas officials “friends” whom he was “honored” in 2009 to host in the Parliament, Corbyn is widely accused of tolerating or ignoring anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Israel speech, among other forms of Jew hatred.
In an editorial published on its website, the Jewish Chronicle, Britain’s foremost Jewish newspaper, accused anyone defending Corbyn’s leadership of “demonstrably defending a man who allies with terrorists — and then lies if it becomes an embarrassment.”
“There are many fine Labour MPs who are horrified at being tarred with his brush. But the plain fact is that as long as they continue to take the Labour whip they will be — and will deserve to be. They must act or forever be damned.”
Speaking with the Chronicle, Michelle Hirschfield, the cousin of Har Nof massacre victim Rabbi Abraham Goldberg, said that Jews should be “wary” of Corbyn and expressed consternation that many British people seemed not to care about his association with people involved in violent activity.
“We live in a bubble. London, Golders Green and where we are is very different to going up north, to the rest of the country, it’s very frightening. People don’t care about the Jews,” she said. “Every Shabbat we say a prayer supporting the royal family and praying for good government… I think it’s terrible that he is leader of the opposition at the moment. If he becomes Prime Minister I think it would be awful. I really think the Jewish people have got to be very wary of it.”
“It’s absolutely terrible; here’s Corbyn supporting a terrorist group that has killed a British citizen. This is someone from his own country, how can he be like that?”
In a tweet posted before the news of al Taher’s presence at the ceremony broke, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, wrote that Corbyn would be “judged by the company you keep.”