Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ankie Spitzer

The IOC Didn’t Do Israel a Favor

On Wednesday, two of the widows of the Israeli Olympians who were murdered in Munich in 1972 made a last-ditch effort to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to change its mind and allow a moment of silence in their memory at the London Games opening ceremony to be held tonight. But despite the tearful pleas of Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, IOC head Jacques Rogge refused to be moved.

As Britain’s JC reports, Spitzer said this of the meeting with Rogge:

“I asked him ‘is it because they were Israelis?’ and he didn’t answer.

“We were just about rolling over the table for him. We are outraged. We are so angry. We are sad. We could not believe it but he is not going to do it.

“I was looking him in the eye but he said we had two different opinions. We said ‘you didn’t hear the voice of the world.’ He said: ‘Yes I did.’”

Were he an honest man, Rogge would have admitted that the Israeli identity of the victims was the reason for his refusal. Indeed, when he says he heard the “voice of the world,” it may be he is referring to the fact that he believes — and not without reason — the world doesn’t care about spilled Jewish blood. Someone who agrees with that conclusion is Amir Mizroch, the English editor of Israel Hayom who writes (h/t Uriel Heilman at JTA) that perhaps “the IOC is doing us a favor by rejecting” requests for a moment to remember the Munich victims, because he is sure that instead of respectful silence what would follow such a request would be “a minute of deafening cacophony of hate for Israel.”

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On Wednesday, two of the widows of the Israeli Olympians who were murdered in Munich in 1972 made a last-ditch effort to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to change its mind and allow a moment of silence in their memory at the London Games opening ceremony to be held tonight. But despite the tearful pleas of Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, IOC head Jacques Rogge refused to be moved.

As Britain’s JC reports, Spitzer said this of the meeting with Rogge:

“I asked him ‘is it because they were Israelis?’ and he didn’t answer.

“We were just about rolling over the table for him. We are outraged. We are so angry. We are sad. We could not believe it but he is not going to do it.

“I was looking him in the eye but he said we had two different opinions. We said ‘you didn’t hear the voice of the world.’ He said: ‘Yes I did.’”

Were he an honest man, Rogge would have admitted that the Israeli identity of the victims was the reason for his refusal. Indeed, when he says he heard the “voice of the world,” it may be he is referring to the fact that he believes — and not without reason — the world doesn’t care about spilled Jewish blood. Someone who agrees with that conclusion is Amir Mizroch, the English editor of Israel Hayom who writes (h/t Uriel Heilman at JTA) that perhaps “the IOC is doing us a favor by rejecting” requests for a moment to remember the Munich victims, because he is sure that instead of respectful silence what would follow such a request would be “a minute of deafening cacophony of hate for Israel.”

Mizroch may have a point. It is by no means unlikely that the crowd in London, not to mention even the athletes from Europe, the Third World and Muslim countries, would respond to a request for silence with jeers for the victims of Munich. Perhaps some would even take up chants in support for the terrorists who committed that atrocity.

Mizroch believes the moment of silence would be a replica of what happens at the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. He thinks a repeat of this treatment on the far more visible stage of the Olympics would discourage the people of Israel, because they would see for themselves, “just how few friends we actually have in the world.”

But Spitzer and the others who have spearheaded the drive to pressure the world to commemorate the Munich massacre on the 40th anniversary of the crime were not wrong. It may well be that Jew-hatred would bubble over on one of the world’s biggest stages had Rogge done the decent thing and asked for silence. But the proper response to this hatred on the part of self-respecting Jews as well as non-Jews is not to slink away and meekly accept this treatment.

The reason why the IOC and many of its member nations resisted the call to commemorate the Munich victims is because they know that doing so brings into disrepute the effort to stigmatize and drive Israel out of the family of nations. Were there to be a moment of silence that was disrupted by boos, Israelis certainly would feel, as Mizroch put it, disgusted by their rejection. But the losers would be the Israel-haters. Like the UN’s “Zionism is Racism” resolution and the long list of other anti-Semitic acts perpetrated throughout the last century, the ultimate result would be to discredit the cause of those who think slaughtering Jewish athletes is a form of heroism.

What the Israel-haters want is to make the Jews go away quietly and accept their ostracism. Doing so allows Israelis to avoid unpleasant confrontations, but it is no solution. As with the memory of every other act of hatred against the Jewish people, the proper response is to fight back and never let the perpetrators or their cheerleaders think they will ever live down the infamy they have earned.

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IOC: Been There, Done That, on Munich

Days after the news broke that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had refused Israel’s request for a moment of silence for the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre, the IOC finally issued a rationale for its decision. But the group’s perfunctory and lame excuse for why not one moment could be spared to remember the 11 Israeli athletes who were slain by Palestinian terrorists won’t convince anyone. As CNN reports, the group’s attitude can be summed up as a mere case of been there, done that.

“The IOC has paid tribute to the memory of the athletes who tragically died in Munich in 1972 on several occasions and will continue to do so. The memory of the victims is not fading away. One thing is certain, we will never forget,” Andrew Mitchell, an IOC spokesman, told CNN.

IOC President Jacques Rogge will attend the Israeli team’s traditional reception in memory of the victims at the Games. “However, we do not foresee any commemoration during the opening ceremony of the London Games,” he said.

In fact, the only substantive commemoration of the 11 Israelis came immediately after their murder which was then followed by a blunt statement by the then head of the IOC Avery Brundage — a well known anti-Semite — to the effect that the Games were too important to be further postponed by the tragedy. Since then, though Olympic officials have paid lip service to Israeli efforts to remember the 11, there has been a consistent effort to downplay or ignore them. If, as the spokesman claimed, the IOC “will continue” to pay tribute to their memory, why is one moment of silence during a ceremony that goes on for hours too much to ask?

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Days after the news broke that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had refused Israel’s request for a moment of silence for the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre, the IOC finally issued a rationale for its decision. But the group’s perfunctory and lame excuse for why not one moment could be spared to remember the 11 Israeli athletes who were slain by Palestinian terrorists won’t convince anyone. As CNN reports, the group’s attitude can be summed up as a mere case of been there, done that.

“The IOC has paid tribute to the memory of the athletes who tragically died in Munich in 1972 on several occasions and will continue to do so. The memory of the victims is not fading away. One thing is certain, we will never forget,” Andrew Mitchell, an IOC spokesman, told CNN.

IOC President Jacques Rogge will attend the Israeli team’s traditional reception in memory of the victims at the Games. “However, we do not foresee any commemoration during the opening ceremony of the London Games,” he said.

In fact, the only substantive commemoration of the 11 Israelis came immediately after their murder which was then followed by a blunt statement by the then head of the IOC Avery Brundage — a well known anti-Semite — to the effect that the Games were too important to be further postponed by the tragedy. Since then, though Olympic officials have paid lip service to Israeli efforts to remember the 11, there has been a consistent effort to downplay or ignore them. If, as the spokesman claimed, the IOC “will continue” to pay tribute to their memory, why is one moment of silence during a ceremony that goes on for hours too much to ask?

An online petition has been started asking the IOC for “Just One Minute” of silence for the Israelis. It comes with a video from Ankie Spitzer, widow of Andrei Spitzer, who was one of the 11, and who speaks on behalf of all the families of the victims. As she states so eloquently, she has been asking the IOC for 40 years for such a commemoration but has been turned down every time.

As Ms. Spitzer states:

These men were sons; fathers; uncles; brothers; friends; teammates; athletes. They came to Munich in 1972 to play as athletes in the Olympics; they came in peace and went home in coffins, killed in the Olympic Village and during hostage negotiations.

The families of the Munich 11 have worked for four decades to obtain recognition of the Munich massacre from the International Olympic Committee. We have requested a minute of silence during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics starting with the ’76 Montreal Games. Repeatedly, these requests have been turned down. The 11 murdered athletes were members of the Olympic family; we feel they should be remembered within the framework of the Olympic Games. …

Silence is a fitting tribute for athletes who lost their lives on the Olympic stage. Silence contains no statements, assumptions or beliefs and requires no understanding of language to interpret.

I have no political or religious agenda. Just the hope that my husband and the other men who went to the Olympics in peace, friendship and sportsmanship are given what they deserve. One minute of silence will clearly say to the world that what happened in 1972 can never happen again. Please do not let history repeat itself.

For my husband Andrei and the others killed, we must remember the doctrine of the Olympic Spirit, “to build a peaceful and better world which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play,” is more powerful than politics.

As I wrote previously, the reason for the IOC’s refusal isn’t any great mystery. The vast majority of member nations in the Olympic movement want nothing at the Games to remind the world of a crime committed by terrorists seeking the destruction of the State of Israel. In this sense, the IOC is a mirror image of the United Nations, a world body where anti-Semitism is the norm rather than the exception.

This week, the Olympic torch will start to be carried around Britain as a prelude to the Games as part of a tradition initiated by the Nazis to promote the 1936 Berlin Olympics. That makes it an apt moment for those persons of good will to make it clear to the IOC that ignoring the 40th anniversary of the massacre is indefensible. Both President Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, who chaired the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, must add their voices to that of Ankie Spitzer in calling for just one minute to remember.

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