In the end, the families of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches who were murdered at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago and millions of Jews who mourned with them, got a bit of satisfaction out of the London Games. Though the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stubbornly refused to devote even a minute of an hours-long opening ceremony for a moment of silence for the victims of Munich (while giving several minutes to a memorial to the victims of the London subway bombings), American gymnast Alexandra Raisman had an appropriate response. By saying her gold medal-winning performance in the floor exercise was in part a memorial to the Israelis who perished long before she was born, Raisman gave us a genuine moment of Jewish pride that places the IOC’s shameful stand in perspective.
As the Massachusetts native told the New York Post, she did not select the “Hava Nagila” Hebrew dance music deliberately to honor the Munich 11, but she took special satisfaction from winning the gold 40 years after the massacre. Doing so, she said, “meant a lot” to her. She also said she would have supported and respected an Olympic moment of silence for Munich. Her statement and victory ought to comfort Jews who were rightly outraged by the double standard shown by the IOC, but it doesn’t change the fact that the decision to snub the Munich victims at the opening ceremony was a telling indication of the group’s prejudice against Israel and Jews.
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.”
In spite of the growing calls for a moment of silence in honor of the 11 Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the head of the International Olympic Committee said yesterday that he would not alter his determination to refuse to allow the issue to intrude upon the opening ceremonies of the London Games this Friday. Jacques Rogge said yesterday that it “was not fit” for a commemoration of Munich to be included in the gala start to the global athletic extravaganza.
This week, President Obama added his voice to those already calling for a moment of silence at the ceremony. Perhaps even more importantly, Bob Costas, NBC television’s Olympic host, has said that he will impose his own moment of silence on the coverage of the event when the Israeli team enters the stadium:
“I intend to note that the IOC denied the request,” Costas said. “Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive. Here’s a minute of silence right now.”
Costas deserves great deal of credit for not allowing the IOC’s desire to keep the memory of Munich out of sight during the games (Rogge said he will attend a ceremony honoring the Munich victims in Germany next week). But while he finds the refusal to simply devote one minute to remembrance “puzzling,” there is no mystery about it. Rogge has called requests for such a memorial “political.” While there is nothing political about recalling the terrorist attack, by that he means that many of the participating nations are not comfortable highlighting a crime committed by Palestinians or honoring the memory of Israeli Jews. As historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote this past week, the controversy is more proof that in the eyes of the world, spilled Jewish blood remains a cheap commodity.
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?