Jeremy Corbyn has said he was present at a wreath-laying at the graves of those thought to be responsible for the murder of Israeli athletes, but said he does not “think” he was actually involved in the service.
On Saturday, the Daily Mail published pictures of the Labour leader holding a wreath in the Palestinian Martyr’s Cemetery in Tunisia during a visit in 2014.
Widows of the Israelis murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics have said they were “extremely disturbed” by the pictures.
Conservative Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has suggested that Corbyn should quit as Labour leader over the row.
Speaking to Sky News on Monday, Corbyn said: “I was present when it was laid, I don’t think I was actually involved in it.
“I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere.”
He added: “You cannot pursue peace through a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”
Labour MP Luciana Berger dismissed Corbyn’s explanation. “Being ‘present’ is the same as being involved,” she tweeted.
“When I attend a memorial, my presence alone, whether I lay a wreath or not, demonstrates my association & support. There can also never be a ‘fitting memorial’ for terrorists. Where is the apology?”
Labour last night had said the the widows were being “misled” and Corbyn “did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings”.
“He and other parliamentarians went to the Palestinian cemetery in Tunisia to remember the victims of the 1985 Israeli bombing of the PLO headquarters, many of whom were civilians,” the party said.
But the Daily Mail said its investigation showed the pictures of Corbyn were taken in front of a plaque honouring the founder of Black September, which carried out the Munich massacre, while the air strike memorial to civilians was 15 yards away.
Many of those believed to have behind the murder of 11 Israelis in Munich are said to have been subsequently killed by the Israeli secret service.
Writing in the Morning Star at the time of the visit, Corbyn said that 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 picture 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.
Corbyn said today controversial version of the international definition of anti-Semitism agreed by Labour’s ruling body was the “most sophisticated” of any political party.
He said the party did not want to “unwittingly” shut down debate about Israel.