Jamie's Blog

The Case of the Wreath and the Wrong Graves

Tags: Opinions

Addendum: In another piece, I’ve definitively shown that the monument I talk about in this piece is next to the graves, contradicting the Daily Mail statement that it is in “another part of the complex”.

The Daily Mail recently published yet another attack on Corbyn [1], accusing him of memorialising “Munich terrorists”. They say that, in response to this accusation, he “insisted” that he was there to commemorate the 1985 bombing of the PLO base in Tunis [2], but then show him pictured in front of the graves of those same “Munich terrorists”.

Corbyn holding… the Wreath. Retrieved from [1].
Corbyn holding… the Wreath. Retrieved from [1].
In front of… the Wrong Graves. Retrieved from [1].
In front of… the Wrong Graves. Retrieved from [1].

All other facts of the case aside, I’m writing this because I’ve found proof that the Daily Mail has misrepresented the facts it has available to it. It’s up to you how important you think this is in the scheme of things, but, I don’t like the Daily Mail very much, and I’m incredibly petty, so I think it’s very important. Let’s get into that first.

The Daily Mail is implying that Corbyn is there to commemorate the terrorists, and not the 1985 bombing. It sets this up most distinctly in the article’s standfirst [1]:

Pretty clear they’re presenting a contradiction here.

Now, 15 yards is about 15 metres. That’s… really not very far away, is it? Is the Daily Mail suggesting that Corbyn isn’t capable of walking from one grave to another? I wanted to make this point visually, so I thought I’d track down the cemetery on Google Maps. This turned out to be pretty difficult to do, so I thought I’d check the EXIF metadata of one of the images to see if it had any long/lat information1. Instead, what I found was the original caption for the image – the caption given to it on the website of the Embassy of Palestine in Tunisia, whence the Daily Mail retrieved it. Here’s an excerpt from the EXIF data2 [3] (emphasis mine):

The Palestinian and Tunisian martyrs in Hammam al-Shat spent an Israeli raid on the headquarters of the Palestinian leadership in the southern suburbs of the capital, Tunis, on this day in 1985.

The date of this event was the anniversary of the 1985 bombing. It also turns out this town, Hammam Chatt, is where the bombing took place [2]. So it’s probably a fair assumption that the event was in commemoration of that bombing. And it’s also fair to assume that’s why Corbyn was there all along. While this doesn’t address the fact that he’s pictured in front of the wrong graves, it does pretty solidly undermine the attack on his motivations for being there.

This information doesn’t appear anywhere in the article. A keen eye will spot that their timeline of events shows “1 Oct 1985” and then later, “1 Oct 2014”, but there’s no reference to the anniversary or the date anywhere in the text itself.

Now, if you check the full text of that EXIF caption (appendix), you’ll see something interesting at the top: “Daily Mail 08/08/2018… A caption on the website translates to…”

Not only did the Daily Mail know of this caption, they even translated it and stored it in the image themselves! They had the information that contradicted their narrative, and they cynically chose not to include it. Any pretense that they think Corbyn is there for any other reason is undermined by their own research.

Ok, that’s my goal scored. You can stop reading now, if you like.

But what about the wrong graves?

And what about that wreath?

Interestingly, it turns out Corbyn himself is a primary source on the day’s events, as he wrote about it for the Morning Star quite without shame [4]:

Wreaths were laid at the graves of those who died on that day [1st Oct 1985] and on the graves of others killed by Mossad agents in Paris in 1991.

It seems likely – given that Corbyn (probably) doesn’t read Arabic – he actually had no idea whose graves he was in front of, and was depending on his hosts from the Palestinian Embassy. It has been frequently noted by the press that he got either the date or location of death wrong – only one was killed in Paris, and them in 1992 – and this is pretty good evidence that he simply didn’t know who these “others” were. The plinth in front of him is for three others killed in Tunis and reads “1991” [5], so he presumably mixed that up with what he was told on the day. Now, it’s up to you whether it was his job to know this information beforehand, and whether his ignorant complaisance was excusable, but in any case it seems like the most plausible scenario.

With respect to the Daily Mail’s journalistic integrity, rather than Corbyn’s guilt, another question worth asking is: is the epithet “Munich terrorists” fair? To be clear, I’m not saying they weren’t involved in planning Munich3 – Salah Khalaf and Fakhri al-Omari very likely were. Atef Bseiso is a much more tenuous case, though it’s certainly possible. But I can say that, because I’m just an idiot with a blog. I’m not a published newspaper, juicy meat to fact-checking, libel laws and IPSO regulation. The only original sources I can find implicating them are all based on Israeli intelligence, who probably shouldn’t be the final arbiter of the fate of their enemies [6, 7] (but I acknowledge my ignorance here, if someone knows better). Addendum: In conversation with Anyabike, she provided a much better source implicating Khalaf and al-Omari [8]. Still nothing definitive on Bseiso or Abdel-Hamid.

But, in any case, let’s say Corbyn did knowingly honour them. Is honouring them to support extremism? Well, as in Ireland and South Africa, the real world is more nuanced than that. There is no clear answer. Besides being (alleged) terrorists, (possibly) responsible for numerous atrocities, all of them were statesmen in their own right4 – and it seems all of them mellowed significantly, in tandem with the PLO, with their deaths coming only two years before the PLO officially recognised the right of Israel to exist and the necessity of a two-state solution in 1993 [6]. One article from an Israeli news syndicate stated Khalaf and al-Omari’s deaths “set the stage for radicalisation” [9]. It continued, “In recent years, Khalaf encouraged meetings between Palestinian leaders and representatives of the Israeli left,” and quoted:

“In the past,” he said, “we believed that this land is ours alone, and we did not believe in the idea of coexistence between two states.”

“Everything that has happened to the Palestinian and Israeli people — the blood which has been spilled, the victims, the maimed — has moved us to react to the call of every Palestinian and Israeli child, so that we can take a serious step toward peace,” he said.

“Just as you have some extremists, we also have many such people,” he said. But “we have concluded that we cannot destroy the Israeli people,” he said.

“There can be no peace without two states which will co-exist side by side,” said Khalaf, “and which will be able to say to the entire world: the war in the Middle East has ended, and the tragedy is over.”

“Munich Terrorist”

So, which are they honouring – the man who committed atrocities, or the man who learned to put aside violence and seek compassion?

Ok, ok, whatever. So, is Corbyn lying?

As to intentionally honouring terrorists: probably not. His original article mentioned the graves of the “others” who have caused this brou-ha-ha by so inconsiderately being dead in the wrong place. Those “others” are clearly the four “terrorists”. If he actually knew their significance and wanted to honour them, he’d probably have either got the facts right and said what I just did, or elided them from his report altogether (if in fact he just likes a good bit of the old terrorism every now and again). His article is probably the only English-language primary source5, so he got to play the arbiter of truth on this one, and it seems odd to include potentially controversial information – unless he’s actually a master of subterfuge six bluffs deep, that is. I doubt it.

His other claim is that he was not ‘involved’ in the placing of a wreath on those graves. Now, whether he’s lying is really down to his unknowable definition of the word ‘involved’. Clearly, he held a wreath near them – we don’t know what he did with it or where it ended up. He claims he only placed a wreath on the monument and not the graves, and I’d tend to believe him on that. Again, I’d guess someone handed him the wreath out of politeness to their guest, and he took it out of politeness to his hosts. If you think that’s ‘involved’, then I won’t argue one way or the other, but my own opinion is that he meant, “I was not involved [in placing the wreath]”.

Conclusions???

The media is incredibly cynical. Surprise! They understand that most readers garner first impressions from the title and standfirst – that’s why tabloid headlines are so obnoxiously long. That The Guardian &c. did nothing to correct them is not surprising given the objective empirical fact they’re a bunch of opportunist dirtbags. You can quote this as a primary source6.

Time and time again, with Ireland, with the Middle East, the media capitalises on the ignorance of and apathy for these places not England, and the watchword “terror”, correlating their opponents with a racism and fear that they have cultivated over decades. In this way they steer public opinion from the pressing economic and social arguments their opponents embody; but if you stare closely enough you can see the cracks, and, prising them open, find some pearls of truth.

Maybe worse, this is the latest in a string of articles representing an almost sociopathic incapacity of the media to understand how normal humans actually behave. Sometimes the facts are wrong, but more often these days, it’s more a case of sitting someone down and explaining to them how people work. Finding ‘rationalisations’ for people’s actions has always been a faux pas in political commentary, sort of like stopping an argument to take a shit on the table, but when the bar of empathy is set this low, it produces a kind of general, dehumanising anomie, which demands a response.

No wonder we’re all depressed.

Postscript: Some Other Idiots

As an idiot with a blog, it seems appropriate to lash out wildly at some other idiots with blogs.

First up is Skwawkbox, whose article I found while trying to find more images of the graveyard. They try to show that Corbyn is in some kind of parallel universe because the focal length of one camera is different from another [10]. These two images are not in the same place. According to their “Graphics Expert”. Yep.

Look at the position of the beam relative to the plinth. And the placement of the railing. In other pictures, the shape of the pavilion is also damning. Only the same to anyone with working eyes and a brain, clearly. Those MSM shills!

Seriously – this is embarrassing. Obviously Skwawkbox is bad and nobody takes them seriously, but it took all of five seconds to cross-reference this out of existence, so, honestly, guys, just pack it in, ok?

(While grabbing one of the images for this, I found this article condemning their coverage. Ironically, people are misunderstanding Skw’box’s misunderstanding here – Skw’ox are right there was a separate event on the 4th of October attended by (I surmise) various Palestinian supporters and students [11]. The event Corbyn attended on the 1st of October [4, 12] was attended by those from the Palestinian conference south of Carthage (see appendix). Both attended the graves of the four “Munich terrorists”, and both laid wreathes there [12], which Skwkbx failed to refute.)

The other idiot with a blog… actually, I can’t be bothered. It’s a bit more effort, not as funny and this post is long enough. Judging from the twitter comments, it would just be asking for a heap of dipshits I don’t have the energy for. Addendum: I have now responded here.

Oh, and everyone needs to read more Chomsky

Appendix: Full Daily Mail EXIF Caption from [3]

Daily Mail 08/08/2018 Picture shows:Images from the Palestinian Embassy Website archive in Tunisia showing Jeremy Corbyn in Tunisia in October 2014. A caption on the website translates to:Tunisia, 1-10-2014 - The delegation of Palestine participating in the conference on legal and political tracks of the Palestinian issue on Wednesday laid the wreaths on the shrines of martyrs in the cemetery of Hammam al-Shat in the southern suburb of Tunis on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas, The Palestinian Liberation Organization, and the Fatah Central Committee. The delegation, headed by Fatah Central Committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad, read in the presence of the Ambassador of the State of Palestine in Tunisia Salman Al-Herfi, the opening of the book on the souls of the heroic martyrs. The delegation was accompanied by British MP from the Labor Party, Jeremy Korban, member of Fatah Central Committee Mohammad Ashtiyeh, Secretary General of the People’s Party Bassam Salhi, member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Maher Tahir, Embassy. The Palestinian and Tunisian martyrs in Hammam al-Shat spent an Israeli raid on the headquarters of the Palestinian leadership in the southern suburbs of the capital, Tunis, on this day in 1985. Al-Ahmad handed over to President Mohamed Al-Moncef Al-Marzouqi a letter from President Mahmoud Abbas on bilateral relations and ways to develop them, The Tunisian President invited the members of the Palestinian delegation to a luncheon in their honor on the occasion of their visit to Tunisia and attend the conference. M.Sh.

Bibliography

[1] E. Simnaz, “Corbyn’s wreath at Munich terrorists’ graves: Photos show Labour leader at tribute event for Palestine ’martyrs’... Including plotters behind 1972 slaughter of Israeli Olympic athletes,” Daily Mail Online, Aug. 2018, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6048807/Photos-Labour-leader-Corbyn-tribute-event-Palestine-martyrs-linked-Munich-massacre.html.

[2] Wikipedia, “Operation wooden leg,” 2018. [Online]. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Wooden_Leg. [Accessed: 13-Aug-2018].

[3] Embassy of Palestine in Tunisia, 2014. [Online]. Available: https://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/newpix/2018/08/10/21/4F000C9500000578-6048807-image-a-52_1533933612593.jpg. [Accessed: 13-Aug-2018].

[4] J. Corbyn, “Palestine united,” Morning Star Online, 2014, https://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-98de-palestine-united-1.

[5] Embassy of Palestine in Tunisia, 29-Jul-2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.facebook.com/PalestinianEmbassy/posts/621478817949372. [Accessed: 13-Aug-2018].

[6] B. M. Rubin, Revolution until victory?: The politics and history of the PLO. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1996.

[7] A. J. Klein, Striking back: The 1972 Munich Olympics massacre and Israel’s deadly response. Random House, 2007.

[8] L. Marlowe, “Massacre in Munich,” Jan. 2006, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/massacre-in-munich-1.1004843.

[9] G. Sedan, “News analysis: PLO may have suffered fatal blow with assassination of two leaders,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Jan. 1991, https://www.jta.org/1991/01/16/archive/news-analysis-plo-may-have-suffered-fatal-blow-with-assassination-of-two-leaders.

[10] SKWAWKBOX, “Excl: Mail’s ‘terrorist grave’ pics – ‘NO match to Corbyn wreath images’,” 2018. [Online]. Available: https://skwawkbox.org/2018/08/12/excl-mails-terrorist-grave-pics-no-match-to-corbyn-wreath-images/. [Accessed: 13-Aug-2018].

[11] Embassy of Palestine in Tunisia, 04-Oct-2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=655942537836333&id=109433359153923. [Accessed: 13-Aug-2018].

[12] Embassy of Palestine in Tunisia, 14-Oct-2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.facebook.com/PalestinianEmbassy/posts/661657580598162. [Accessed: 13-Aug-2018].


  1. Most photographers and news organisations sanitise EXIF data, but, worth a shot.

  2. I used the Chrome extension Send to Exif Viewer.

  3. With the bullet-point, “Labour leader is just feet from Black September members who killed 11 Israelis,” the Daily Mail definitely means to imply that these people directly killed Israelis in Munich, which is pedantically inaccurate, but I’d say Kissinger killed tens or hundreds of thousands of Cambodians in Operation Freedom Deal, so I’ll allow it. It’s blatant suggestion, and you could argue semantics over the word “kill”, but it’s kind of besides the point.

  4. Note that this can, without being facetious, also be said of several of Israel’s first heads of state. Nelson Mandela and Martin McGuinness, too.

  5. Someone questioned me on this: what I’m saying is that, if he had not written his Morning Star article, The Daily Mail (and an earlier Times article) would not have had an English language source for him being there. His article is probably how they found out there was something they could dig up.

  6. Addendum: shortly after I published this, Owen Jones wrote a quite good piece in The Guardian.