Jeremy Corbyn’s past links with Hamas have come under intense scrutiny this week, as the fallout from Labour’s failure to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-semitism continues.
On Monday, it was revealed that the Labour leader had chaired a panel at a conference in Doha in 2012 which was also attended by convicted terrorists and senior Hamas officials.
These included Husam Badran, who was given a 17-year sentence for his involvement in a series of terrorist attacks committed during the Second Intifada; Dr Abdul Aziz Umar (pictured), who received seven life sentences for aiding in the preparation of a suicide belt; and Hamas’ former political leader, Khalid Mashal. Mashal is on Britain’s terror sanctions list and has repeatedly endorsed the use of violence against Israel.
Badran, reported the Daily Telegraph, is accused by Israel of being responsible for the bombings of the Dolphinarium nightclub, two restaurants in Jerusalem and Haifa, a train station, two buses and the Park Hotel in Netanya. The attacks resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people.
The attack on the Dolphinarium in June 2001 targeted teenagers, 16 of whom died in a suicide bombing which claimed the lives of 21 Israelis.
Umar helped with the preparation of a suicide vest which was used in an attack on Jerusalem’s Café Hillel in September 2003 in which seven Israelis were murdered and more than 70 injured. Among those who lost their lives was Israel’s leading specialist in emergency healthcare, Dr David Applebaum, who devoted his life’s work to saving the victims of suicide bombers, and his daughter, Nava, who was due to marry the next day.
Both Badran and Umar were released months before the conference in a prisoner swap where Israel freed scores of Hamas terrorists in exchange for the captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
In an article for the Morning Star at the time, Corbyn said he had listened to speeches given by the freed men, labeling their remarks “fascinating and electrifying”. Two weeks ago, a Press TV interview with the Labour leader came to light in which he said he had met Umar at the conference. “I met many of the brothers, including the brother who’s been speaking here … when I was in Doha earlier this year,” he told the Iranian state broadcaster in 2012.
Mashal does not accept Israel’s right to exist – arguing in 2012 that “Palestine from the river to the sea, from the north to the south, is our land and we will never give up one inch or any part of it” – and has praised those carrying out knife attacks and car rammings in the West Bank and Jerusalem. “By God, they are the most exalted and the noblest of people,” he has declared. “After the knives used by the people of the West Bank and Jerusalem – can anyone possibly have an excuse to abandon the path of Jihad?”
Footage of the conference shows that Corbyn also praised the decision of an immigration tribunal to overturn the then home secretary’s decision to deport hate preacher Raed Salah from the UK. Salah – whom the Labour leader once described as “a very honoured citizen” and invited to have tea with him on the parliamentary terrace – was convicted of inciting anti-Jewish racism and violence in Israel in January 2009 and was also found by a British judge to have deployed the medieval “blood libel” that Jews murder Christian children to drink their blood.
Responding to the Telegraph story, LFI director Jennifer Gerber said: “Hamas is a virulently antisemitic group which seeks Israel’s destruction and is responsible for multiple terrorist attacks. Jeremy Corbyn was not on a peace mission, he was attending a conference which gave a platform to individuals who have the blood of hundreds of Israelis on their hands. He should apologise to the families of Hamas’ victims immediately.”
The Labour leader was also reported by Israel’s i24 News to have visited the Jerusalem and the West Bank in November 2010 with an Islamist lobby group to meet senior Hamas officials.
Corbyn has been referred to Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, over claims he failed to declare in the House of Commons register that the trip had been funded by Middle East Monitor and Friends of Al-aqsa.
At the time MPs were required to declare trips paid for by others above the value of £660. The Labour MP Andrew Slaughter declared the same trip, listing its cost as £927. A Labour spokesperson said the party believed Corbyn’s visit was under the £660 limit and was working to establish the full details.
LFI chair Joan Ryan called for Corbyn to apologise for his meetings with Hamas. She told i24 News: “It is appalling that Jeremy Corbyn chose to meet with representatives of an antisemitic terror group which seeks the destruction of Israel. Hamas is responsible for some of the most heinous terrorist crimes over recent years, including the murder of teenage girls outside a disco, and families in pizza restaurants and cafes. He should apologise immediately to the bereaved families of those butchered by these terrorists.”
Yesterday, the Daily Mail reported that Corbyn met high-profile supporters of Hamas at a meeting in parliament six months before he became Labour leader. Attendees included Azzam Tamimi, an academic who has praised Palestinian “martyrdom”.
This week also saw controversy over a 2010 Morning Star article written by Corbyn in which he wrote that he enjoyed “a takeaway dinner” with Mashal in the parliament building in Gaza during the course of “a long meeting”.
Questioned by journalists this week, Corbyn said: “I don’t remember any takeaway dinners. I have met many people from many aspects of the Palestinian cause as a way of bringing about dialogue, as a way of bringing about peace.”
Writing in this week’s Jewish Chronicle, Ms Ryan questions the Labour leader’s claim that his only interest is in peace and that he will talk to anyone who wishes to bring that about.
“I am afraid this assertion is undermined by his repeated failure to engage with Israelis,” she suggests.
“Since becoming Labour leader he has repeatedly refused to accept invitations to travel to Israel, even to visit Yad Vashem.
“Over many years, he has instead met repeatedly with those who seek Israel’s destruction and who have the blood of hundreds of its citizens on their hands. He has lent them the respectability of meeting a member of the British parliament. They have given nothing in return. This is not at all how peace is achieved.
“His behaviour – together with his incomprehensible unwillingness to, for instance, apologise to the widows of those whose husbands were murdered at Munich for his actions – has thus done nothing to lead Israelis to believe that, as Prime Minister, he could play a part in any future peace process.”