In the two years leading up to the Labour Party’s disastrous showing in this month’s UK general election, the anti-Semitism smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, a typical tactic deployed innumerable times against critics of Israel, was unusually ferocious and relentless given the high stakes. The attacks against Corbyn ranged from the deeply dishonest “British Zionists have no sense of irony” fabrication to the ludicrous issue of Corbyn’s mispronunciation of Jeffrey Epstein’s name as “Ep-stine” to make it sound more Jewish.
One particular slander that perfectly captures the nature of the anti-Corbyn operation involves the laying of a wreath at a Tunisian cemetery in 2014 for dozens of victims of an Israeli bombing. In late September 1985, three Israeli tourists were murdered in Larnaca, Cyprus. On October 1, Israel “retaliated” by bombing PLO headquarters in Tunis, killing about 72, most of whom were laid to rest in a nearby cemetery. Condemnation poured in from all over the globe against armed aggression with a civilian toll, with the sole exception of the Reagan Administration, which initially defended the bombardment as “legitimate” retaliation for the Larnaca murders. Within a few weeks, even the U.S. felt compelled to abandon its position and joined the worldwide chorus of denunciation, calling it a terrorist attack.
The 2014 ceremony at the cemetery was primarily intended to honor the dozens of innocent victims of this mass murder. Also buried nearby were two Palestinian victims of Israeli assassination in Paris in the early 90’s. Israel suspected one or both of these men of involvement in the planning of the 1972 Munich Olympics attack on Israeli athletes and coaches.
Of course, Corbyn has never voiced approval for the Munich operation, either at Tunis in 2014 or at any other time or place. There was no contemporaneous outcry regarding his appearance there, and although he was not yet Labour Party leader, he was a prominent, long-standing MP. Four years later, with Corbyn a legitimate contender for Prime Minister, the wholly manufactured furor suddenly erupted.
A Daily Mail headline blared: “Corbyn’s wreath at Munich terrorists’ graves”. On this side of the Atlantic, Bari Weiss wrung her hands in exasperation that Corbyn had “paid respects at the memorial of the Palestinian perpetrators of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.” Alan Dershowitz went even further, falsely accusing Corbyn of “visit[ing] and prais[ing] the terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes and coaches.”
With all the vilification of Corbyn for his (fabricated) support for international terrorism, the focus was solely on the two Palestinian assassination victims supposedly connected to Munich. No one bothered to revisit Israel’s massacre of 72 other human beings in Tunis in retaliation for the murder of three of its citizens in Cyprus.
Nor was the Tunis mass murder terror-bombing an isolated event. Israel has frequently exacted “justice” for the deaths of its own by some “Arabs” by killing a far greater number of other “Arabs.” Following the murder of three Israelis in October 1953, an IDF elite unit commanded by Ariel Sharon under orders from David Ben-Gurion murdered 69 innocent civilians in the middle of the night in Qibya, Jordan. Following the 1972 Munich Olympics killings of 11 Israelis, the IDF bombed Palestinian refugee camps in southern Lebanon and Syria, killing hundreds of residents. Israel’s bombings and invasions of Lebanon in 1982, 1993, 1996 and 2006 and Gaza in 2009, 2012 and 2014 all were styled as revenge killings for violence or threats of violence against Israel. Many thousands met their death for the capital crime of Breathing While Arab.
Israel and its supporters insist that its “reprisal” killings are legitimate acts of self-defense. Corbyn outrageously considered these forgotten victims not only human beings, but humans with an equal right to life as any Israeli and worthy of the same remembrance as any victims of indiscriminate, indefensible violence. In so doing, he violated the acceptable norms, and no amount of soul-searching apologies for inadvertent insult to the Jewish community could atone. Corbyn’s appearance at the Tunis cemetery, which was quite consistent with his decades-long condemnation of all bigotry and violence, was one of many unforgivable humanizations of Palestinians. He refused to adopt the mandatory fictions that Israel only kills civilians accidentally and only kills at all in self-defense (making the IDF not only the most moral army in the world but also the most accident-prone.) Israel and its surrogates in the UK did everything in their power to keep him nowhere near 10 Downing Street. They were fortunate beneficiaries of the Brexit mess and the assistance of much of Britain’s wealthy elite, who were just as determined to sink Labour under Corbyn’s leadership for their own greed.
And what if the lies about Corbyn had been true? What if Corbyn had eulogized the Palestinian gunmen at Munich and even said that he regularly confers on speed-dial with his friends at Hamas and Hezbollah? It would be no different from those who lionize the great “heroes” of Israeli history – Ben-Gurion and Sharon, who killed scores at Qibya; Meir, who ordered the 1972 post-Munich bombing; Peres, who ordered the Tunis bombing and presided over mass murder in south Lebanon in 1996; Rabin, whose forced evacuation (again at Ben-Gurion’s behest) of Lydda and Ramle in 1948 and the bombing of Lebanon in 1993 racked up hundreds of casualties; and Sharon, probably Israel’s biggest mass killer, who slaughtered thousands in Lebanon in 1982, etc., etc., etc.
Any association, no matter how remote or tenuous, to people even suspected of participation in the deaths of Israelis is forbidden, while reverence for those Israelis who deliberately killed many more Palestinians, Lebanese, Tunisians, and other expendables, is not only tolerated but virtually required.