Whose memory was he honouring in October 2014?
I just did some digging on the story in the Mail yesterday about Corbyn’s involvement in wreath laying for three Palestine “martyrs” (members of Black September who plotted the Munich massacre and were later killed, allegedly by Mossad).
This story first emerged in May 2017. The Sunday Times ran this snippet in the context of a story about Alan Henning and Jihad John:
Others then picked it up including the Independent, which included the transcript of a denial from Corbyn to Sky News.
What’s new in the Mail story is that they publish photographs of the event, which are readily available on the Facebook page of the Palestinian Embassy in Tunisia. The story is certainly much more graphic when you see a picture of Corbyn himself holding a wreath:
So the Mail sent a reporter and a photographer to the Cemetery of the Martyrs of Palestine in Hammam al Chatt (near Tunis) to try and identify where exactly Corbyn and others are standing in these photos, and they also publish some photos their photographer took which help describe the relevant part of the site. So this is a significantly expanded version of the story published last year.
Corbyn told Sky News last year that he was laying a wreath to commemorate all those who died in the Israeli air force attack which destroyed the then PLO HQ in Hammam al Chatt in 1985. As quoted in the Independent:
What is very clear from the Mail story is that when Corbyn was pictured holding that wreath, he was not standing by the memorial to those killed in the 1985 air strike. That memorial is shown here:
And here is another picture I found of that memorial with a man standing by it, which gives you some idea of the scale:
The Mail says this memorial is 15 yards away from where the photos are taken. It’s clearly nowhere near the distinctive canopy structure shown in the other photos.
So where was Corbyn standing when he was pictured holding the wreath? The Mail says he is standing by a plaque that honours three dead men: Salah Khalaf, who founded Black September; Fakhri al-Omari, a key aide of Khalaf’s, and Hayel Abdel-Hamid, PLO chief of security.
The problem I had, not wanting to take anything on trust, is that the photos on their own don’t fully make that clear.
So I googled to find out who these three men are.
Hayel Abdel-Hamid is also mentioned in the New York Times report above. He was assassinated in the same attack as Salah Khalaf. The report says he was known as Abu al-Hol [the Sphinx].
Fakhri al Omari does not feature in the initial NYT report, but he is mentioned in a follow-up report the following day. He was assassinated in the same attack as the other two:
Al Omari is commemorated by Fatah on their Facebook page, as captured by Palestinian Media Watch.
Palestine Media Watch provide the following translation for that text:
So Fatah themselves say of al Omari that “He came up with the idea for the Munich operation, and under the false name ‘Talal’ he was directly responsible for the squad that carried it out.”
Seeking to check what the graves of these three men look like, I found this photo on the website of an organisation called Safsaf:
(The website is in Arabic; I got Google to translate.)
“Abu Iyad” is Salah Khalaf, “Abul Houl” is Abu al-Hol i.e. Hayel Abdel-Hamid, and “Omar” is Fakrhi al Omari.
For further confirmation, see this close up of the plaque (taken from a report on the then Palestinian PM visiting the cemetery, see further below):
This tweet provides a suggested translation of the key part:
Note the date.
And those are the graves you see in the Mail report, with that plaque in front of the middle one, on the right hand side of this photo:
The paper version of the Mail goes into more detail here, indicating with graphics which grave is which:
The photos refer to potted biographies also given by the Mail. On the left, Atef Bseiso (see below for more on him), then Hayel Abdel-Hamid, then directly behind the plaque, Salah Khalaf, and on his right, Fakhri al Omari.
That canopy structure is where Corbyn was standing when he was holding the wreath:
and the grave behind the stone plaque (Salah Khalaf’s grave, the Mail tells us) is where the wreath ends up, with Corbyn standing by:
And given that in the next photo the same three men are standing in the same order, it appears that this plaque is also where Corbyn was standing when he was photographed joining in a prayer. Standing in front of the graves of three men who were involved in planning and organising the Munich massacre.
Corbyn’s response to the allegations
As reported in the Independent last year, Corbyn told Sky News he was merely commemorating the victims of the 1985 air strike, and that is the line that Rachael_Swindon and other Corbyn acolytes are now plugging for all they are worth. But that was before the photos emerged. And Corbyn’s denial is contradicted by an account he himself wrote for the Morning Star. Yes, the victims of the air strike in 1985 were commemorated:
(He gets the year wrong, but never mind). But the commemorations did not stop there:
This clearly raises the question who were these “others killed by Mossad agents in Paris in 1991”? The Sunday Times suggested this could be a reference to Atef Bseiso, killed in Paris in 1992, some say by Mossad.
Corbyn denied this to Sky News:
Well he would say that, wouldn’t he, (although the evidence suggests he was standing very close to Bseiso’s grave) but more to the point his reference in the Morning Star is to “others”, plural.
Given the plaque where Corbyn is pictured standing refers to three “martyrs” who were killed on 14 January 1991, and we know they were killed in Tunis, I would venture to suggest that when Corbyn said killed by Mossad in Paris in 1991… he meant Tunis, not Paris.
And back in 2014 when no one was paying too much attention to what Corbyn said, nobody noticed his mistake.
It’s worth comparing Corbyn’s account of his visit with this photographic account of another visit to the cemetery in Hammam al Chatt, in 2012, by Ismail Haniyeh, then Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority. (Again, the original is in Arabic so you may need to get Google to translate the page.) We see Mr Haniyeh lay a wreath and say prayers at the memorial to those who died in the air strike in 1985. Then later we see him lay a wreath and say prayers in the same place as Corbyn.
This shorter account of the same visit specifically names the “martyrs” who were honoured with a wreath as Salah Khalaf, Atef Bseiso, the Sphinx (al-Hol /Abdel-Hamid) and al Omari.
It could not be more apparent that the itinerary followed by Ismail Haniyeh in 2012 is the same itinerary that Corbyn followed in October 2014.
I do hope someone is going to ask Corbyn whose graves he was referring to if not the three “martyrs” and Atef Bseiso. Because the photos published in the Mail together with Corbyn’s own account clearly suggest he did help lay a wreath and pray at the grave of men who were closely involved in planning and executing the Munich massacre. And that really should be a resigning matter.