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.
The symbolism of a moment of silence for the victims of the Munich crime is important because it again reminds us that the rhetoric about brotherhood and peace that is endlessly spouted during the two-week-long Olympics show is empty talk. As Lipstadt notes, no one could possibly doubt that if there were ever an assault on Western or Third World athletes and coaches at the Olympics, the tragedy would always be prominently remembered at opening ceremonies. The only thing preventing Rogge from acquiescing to what would seem to be a simple and easily satisfied request is that doing so would confer legitimacy on Israel’s presence at the Olympics that most of the world would rather not acknowledge. Nor are many of the nations whose flags will be paraded on Friday night happy about even a second being spent about Jewish victims of Palestinian terror. After all, doing so would be implicitly remind the world that Israel remains the one nation on the planet that is marked for extinction by the hatred of many of its neighbors.
While we think Costas’ stand on the moment of silence has added another reason to consider him one of the most thoughtful voices on television, the IOC’s ongoing refusal ought to give the rest of us a reason to skip the globaloney fest altogether.