By now, Israel-watchers, and some others, know there has been some despicable anti-Semitism (is there any other kind?) at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. When I say Israel-watchers, I mean of course, those who are always attuned to what is happening with the Jewish state. They are the first to see or hear and react to anything negative and positive.
Can’t say the same for most everyone else including other Jews, but hey, that’s for another column. Also, I haven’t seen much in the media about the anti-Israel, and let’s face it, anti-Jewish bigotry, aside from mentions here or there. More Jew-hatred is never a big story. It’s so prevalent; it is a ho-hum, what else is new news item. Nothing to see here, move on. At least till the next time a Jew is insulted or even hurt or worse. And move on then too.
But back to the Olympics.
My first real memories of the games having any kind of impact on me was in 1972 when at Munich, Germany, Palestinian terrorists tortured and murdered 11 Israeli athletes. I was just a kid in yeshiva at that time, not living at home, so, until the massacre, I wasn’t aware of anything specific happening, even the fact that a Jew, Mark Spitz, was winning gold medals for swimming. That kind of news didn’t break into the closed society in which I lived at the time. The massacre of Israelis did.
I had never gotten too excited about the worldwide sports extravaganza before that, and honestly, except for a couple of exceptions here or there, one being the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics Miracle on Ice Team USA winning gold, I generally only pick at the games each time they come around.
I am pretty sure that the stain, the bloodstain of Munich, isn’t the cause of my apathy, though with every run-up to the games, my first thought is to my first real Olympic memory and the painful jolt I get, not the excitement others do. I just don’t care as much as others about the Olympics.
Unsurprisingly, in a world more united in its hatred of Israel than just about anything else, it took 44 years for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to pay tribute and honor the 11 Israelis killed at its games. Forty-four years.
At a ceremony two days prior to the start of the Rio games, Committee President Thomas Bach told the assembled gathering, which included victim family members, that the Munich massacre “was an attack not only on our fellow Olympians but also an assault on the values that the Olympic Village stands for.”
Values? Really? You guys have values? Forty-four years! Hello??
And here we are a generation later and what do we have? The chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee is one Jibril Rajoub, a Palestinian terrorist who was arrested and convicted several times by Israel before being released and later deported. After the Oslo Accords, Rajoub was allowed back into the “West Bank” and served as National Security Advisor to that well-known peace lover, Yasser Arafat.
Part of the Palestinian’s Fatah party central committee since 2009 – Fatah has terrorist factions within it, Rajoub asked the IOC in 2012 to not allow a moment of silence at the London Olympics for the Israeli athletes murdered 40 years earlier. This “values-driven” official wrote that sports, “should not be used for divisiveness and the spread of racism.” A moment of silence for murdered athletes is racist?
Why is this man who still incites terrorism against Israelis allowed to act as head of an Olympic team in violation of the IOC’s own Code of Ethics?
Before the sports matches even began, a Palestinian swimmer complained that the Israeli “occupation” cut off her access to Olympic-sized pools for her training. It was a lie of course, but the media, Reuters in particular, spread the falsehood – anything to make Israel look bad, and draw attention to those poor, suffering Palestinian Olympians.
A Saudi Arabian judoka (judo) competitor forfeited her match, rather than face Israel’s Gili Cohen. It is amazing that the Saudis allowed their athlete to compete at all. Could be she has a good head on her shoulders, and her refusal to meet Ms. Cohen was because she wanted to keep it there.
And the worst spectacle thus far – and with the Olympics not yet done, who knows what else might happen – was when Egypt’s judoka participant refused to shake the hand of the Israeli, Or Sasson, who beat him convincingly and who ended up winning the bronze medal in his weight class. Earlier, another Israeli, Yarden Gerbi, won a bronze in her weight class. Kol Hakavod (Well Done) to Yarden and Or!
Remember when I wrote above, I pick at the games, meaning I watch only some of the spectacle, sports or athletes? Well, I must admit I enjoy the colorful Parade of Nations – I look for Israel in the parade, and the US of course, a bit of the entertainment before and after, any politics, and some of the sports performed.
I was mesmerized by, and marveled at, those aeronautically-gifted, gutsy young US ladies who defied gravity in gymnastics and who crushed contenders who, in comparison, were barely pretenders. Kudos to medal-winning-again, proud American Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman who four years before, unabashedly honored the 11 murdered Israeli athletes at her floor exercise. Also this year, I am super happy and proud of hometown Baltimore boy Michael Phelps, who has won so much gold he should get his own vault at Fort Knox.
Some pretty nasty stuff going on, some pretty nice. I will keep picking at the games, and of course make sure the US stays ahead and wins the most medals, and they are and they will.
Go Team Israel and go Team USA!