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Olympics, I don’t need your lousy (minute of) silence

Do they think they'd be doing the Jews a favor in commemorating an event that should be important for everyone?

Did you know that while the Israelis were being held hostage at the Munich Olympics 1972, after two of them had already been killed, the games went on?

In the documentary about the event, One Day in September, they show athletes carrying on with the competitions while the Jews are being held hostage nearby.

At around 9:00 in the video above, you can see looks of agony on the faces of the athletes as they push themselves to their physical and mental limits.

Jews were locked up a short distance away, terrified, while athletes fell on the ground, exhausted, on a high from their moments of fame, and the crowds jumped to their feet and waved their flags as they watched humanity at its most inspiring.

Probably the most difficult scene from this part of the film (11:40 in the video above) is when an American reporter shows that a couple hundred meters away from the Israelis’ room, athletes are sun bathing, playing ping pong and shmoozing.

A screenshot from the film

To make the whole story even more shocking, consider the historical context of those Olympics. It was the first time they were being held in Germany since the Nazi Olympics of 1936. The Germans were hypersensitive about the fact that they had to make a good impression on their guests. Thirty years earlier they were systematically murdering Jews and other minorities, but now they were determined to show the world how modern and liberal they had become.

How does any of this make sense? If this was Germany and the world community on their best behavior, it is chilling to think how it could get any worse.

When I try to make some sense of all of this, my Jewish instinct/training forces me to conclude that it was because the victims were Jews, and Jews just don’t matter that much. This, I believe, is something that is proven over and over again.

This week a bus of Jews was blown up in Bulgaria. The funerals of the five Israelis killed were held today (Thursday).

These Jews were murdered when a bomber, whose identity is still being established, blew himself up, taking six people with him, including the bus driver, a Bulgarian Muslim. Many more are injured.

This week’s terror felt so familiar. Terrorist attacks against Jews abroad are quite regular and when it happens (never again!), I am automatically reminded of past attacks.

Although I wasn’t yet alive to witness the Munich Massacre, there has recently been such awareness raised about the event that I immediately made the parallel. And, of course, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that the committee of the London Olympics 2012 didn’t agree to have a minute of silence in memory of the 11 victims from 40 years ago.

Now, suddenly, there is word that there will be some kind of memorial.

Do they think they are doing us a favor? What gives people the impression that this moment of silence is a favor to us Jews and not something important for everyone?

In a piece in the National Post, Jonathan Kay draws a parallel between this week’s attack on Israelis abroad and the importance of commemorating the 1972 terrorist attack. But the line that shocked me in his piece was this:

Yes, it was Jews killed in Munich — in very much the same bloodthirsty fashion as those killed this week in Bulgaria. But tomorrow it could be Christians, or Hindus, or Muslims.

I must be missing something, because to me it sounds like he’s saying: It is normal for Jews to be killed. It’s not good but it’s almost a natural part of humanity. But imagine, today’s Jewish terror victims could tomorrow be… Muslims!

I’d love for Jonathan to explain what he meant to say, but I just want to point out that there was a Muslim killed this week — because he dared to drive a bus full of Jews.

One main theory regarding the Olympic committee’s hesitation to have a moment of silence at the Olympics is that it doesn’t want to upset the Arab and Muslim countries with teams at the event.

To take into consideration someone who doesn’t want to commemorate a murderous event because they hate those killed so much that they think it’s unethical to do an act of kindness for them — that’s actually what the minute of silence is all about. If the Olympics stand for deep and lofty goals for humankind, then reaching those goals involves seeing humanity for what it currently is, and keeping out the hateful people. Bending over backward to make sure that the hateful will feel comfortable and at peace at the games is the antithesis of what the Olympics are supposedly about.

Because of its apparently useless attitude, if the committee does cave in and “allow” a minute of silence, or any kind of official memorial within the Olympics, I think that at this point it should probably be shunned. I am extremely sceptical that the right lessons would be learned anyway.

One must look at how the 1972 Munich massacre panned out in order to understand what lesson must be learned. According to the documentary, it was only after almost 11 hours into the attack that the Olympic committee finally “bowed to the intense international pressure.” (0:55 of the video below)

Whether or not people are open to learning real lessons from Munich, from anti-Semitism, and from a moment of silence, is questionable. I actually believe that the right lessons are possibly too difficult to face, that even those who aren’t committing the crimes are passively supporting them by choosing to remain uninvolved and by feeling that it’s a little bit more OK because the crime is against Jews.

It’s possible that even in Jonathan Kay’s supposedly anti-anti-Semitism piece, we see a distinction being made between Jews being killed and anyone else. This is a sickness that seems to be deeply embedded in much of humanity.

With all this in mind, if having a minute of silence to remember the Israeli victims of the attack at the Munich Olympics is only a gesture toward us, as Mike Isaacson said, I might prefer if you take your moment and shove it.

P.S. I must note that although I stand behind my opinions stated here, it is for the victims’ families to decide what memorial is acceptable and I trust them to make the right decisions — whatever happens.

About the Author
Deena is a new mother, a project manager and a writer living in Jaffa.