U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose party has been increasingly dogged by associations with anti-Semitism in recent months, is in a war of words with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid allegations that Corbyn once commemorated a notorious Palestinian terrorist group.
On Saturday, the Daily Mail published a story that showed Corbyn clutching a wreath at a 2014 ceremony in Tunisia, one year before he became Labour leader. Corbyn has said that he was there to remember dozens of people killed by an Israeli air strike on a Palestinian Liberation Organization base in 1985. (The PLO was classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel at the time, so even that explanation could be seen as controversial.)
But the paper determined, after visiting the site, that Corbyn was actually standing in a different part of the complex during the proceedings — close to the graves of high-ranking members of the group Black September, which murdered several Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
Corbyn, who is a longtime and fierce advocate for Palestinian causes, was asked about the story by a reporter on Monday. He said, “I was present at that wreath-laying,” but that “I don’t think I was actually involved in it.” He did not clarify what, exactly, the ceremony was for.
“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,” he continued. “You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”
That hazy explanation wasn’t enough for Netanyahu, who, given their vast political differences, is probably more than happy to make Corbyn’s life difficult.
Corbyn then responded in a manner that is unlikely to help his case, nor help change the subject.
With Prime Minister Theresa May stuck in a Brexit-shaped quagmire, Corbyn has a chance to seize momentum and maybe even make a run at becoming prime minister. At the moment, though, his worst enemy appears to be himself.