Just One Minute—The Aftermath

Ankie Spitzer has been trying to get the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to listen to her for years. All she asks is that one minute of silence be observed at Olympic Games in memory of her husband Andrei and the other 10 members of the Israeli Olympic team murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. The 11 Israelis were murdered by the Fatah front terror group Black September.

There’s some precedent for Olympic memorials: Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died during a practice run, was remembered at the Games. The World Trade Center disaster was remembered during the 2002 games. But the Munich Massacre is an event the IOC would like to forget.

Several Occasions?

IOC President Jacques Rogge announced in May that “The IOC has officially paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions,” and would not be doing so at the London Olympic Games.

The reference to “several occasions” appears to refer to a farcical memorial held the day after the massacre. The flags of the competing Olympic nations were lowered to half-mast. The sight of the lowered flags so incensed the competing Arab nations that they insisted the flags be raised at the conclusion of the brief memorial. Their wish was honored.

In the memorial speech given by then IOC president Avery Brundage in Munich, there was hardly a mention of the slain. Rather, Brundage praised the resilient nature of the Olympic competitors and likened the magnitude of the massacre to murmurs against increased professional participation in the Olympics and the decision to ban Rhodesia, as a white-supremacist country, from participation in the Munich Games, a decision Brundage had voted against.

Must Go On

Brundage concluded his speech by declaring that the Munich Games must go on.

Since this brief and incomplete memorial ceremony, Ankie Spitzer has asked repeatedly for a moment of silence at subsequent Olympic Games for what she feels—what most Jews (and many parliamentarians and humanitarians) feel—would be an appropriate manner of remembrance for the slain. To no avail.

Now, with the advent of social media, Spitzer’s campaign has at last gained some momentum. This time, a petition, as part of a campaign launched by Rockland, NY’s JCC, has garnered over 90,000 signatures for a moment of silence to be held during the upcoming July 27th opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London. The campaign has received support from the Australian House of Representatives, the US Senate, the Canadian House of Commons, the German Bundestag, 140 members of Italy’s Parliament, and 50 members of British Parliament.

Finally, the Israeli government has thrown its support behind the Just One Minute campaign, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who said, “The terrorist murders of the Israeli athletes were not just an attack on people because of their nationality and religion; it was an attack on the Olympic Games and the international community.

This rejection told us as Israelis that this tragedy is ours alone and not a tragedy within the family of nations,” said Ayalon. “This is a very disappointing approach and we hope that this decision will be overturned so the international community as one can remember, reflect and learn the appropriate lesson from this dark stain on Olympic history.”

Thinking about all of this, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if Rogge were to agree to that moment of silence. Of what is Jacques Rogge so afraid?

Rogge’s Fears

Thinking back on the fury of the participating Arab countries over the small gesture of lowered flags in 1972, I can only draw a single conclusion: IOC President Rogge is afraid that if he were to agree to a minute of silence for the slain Israelis, the participating Arab teams would pull out of the games. Rogge fears boycotts. He fears personal death threats. He fears the backlash from the financial supporters of the Olympic Games.

If the moment of silence were to be held without prior announcement, it is easy to imagine the Arab teams filing out of the opening ceremonies; a very long line of athletes showing their backs in disdain of the Munich massacred, Jews.

Global Sensibility

As president of the IOC, Rogge would want to avoid creating this situation. I can almost understand him; his difficulty in being put on the spot. There is a right and a wrong way for everything. Jew-hatred just doesn’t fit into the global sensibility of diversity, no matter how widespread.

I can almost pity Jacques Rogge for being put in this position—imagine him suffering or perhaps silently seething, while offering official platitudes as to why he will not honor the Jewish dead.  Does Rogge mutter imprecations to himself? Something along the lines of, “Those pesky Jews. They must always cause trouble.”

Because after all, how would IOC President Jacques Rogge spin this event to the mainstream media? How could he explain away, the walkout of numerous Olympic teams from Arab countries during what would surely be the longest minute of silence on record? How could a walkout possibly be explained as anything other than what it would be: an expression of blatant Jew-hatred?

About the Author
Varda Epstein is a blogger and Communications Writer for Kars4Kids.org www.kars4kids.org