Farley Weiss

When the Olympic spirit was extinguished

The murder of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics remains one of the most notorious terrorist attacks in history. Little-known and always-ignored is the fact that the financier of the attack is the current president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas, unrepentant, has never expressed remorse or sorrow for his involvement in this shocking mass murder. Abbas was never tried nor ever punished. And he still stands unapologetic. Why should he not? Certainly, he has no incentive to do so, particularly because the Palestinian Authority is again allowed to field an Olympic team – as they have for twenty years. Well, it was never required of them. Nor was there a demand that they pay any reparations to the victims’ families.

On all levels, it is quite simply outrageous that the Palestinian Authority is allowed to again field a team in the Summer Olympics, a gathering every four years that is ostensibly conducted in the “true spirit of sportsmanship.”

Four years ago the families of the 11 Israeli athletes were denied a request for the Olympics to honor the memory of the victims with a short moment of silence. It was not the first rejection of such a request. Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, sent a letter to then-IOC President Jacques Rogge praising his decision to turn down the moment of silence. Rajoub wrote: “Sport is a bridge for love, unification and for spreading peace among the nations. It must not be a cause for divisiveness and for the spreading of racism.” According to Rajoub any such tribute would be tantamount to spreading racism.  Where is the condemnation of the world over such an outlandish statement? Rajoub is still the head of the Palestinian Authority Olympic Committee.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), for the first time, is taking steps to officially recognize the murder of the 11 Israeli Athletes at the Olympics in Brazil. The IOC will dedicate a memorial stone, describing the 1972 terrorism, in the center of the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro. The large stone that will commemorate the victims will display also a smaller stone on top, to symbolize Jewish mourning. The stone will be brought to the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. There will be an additional Olympic ceremony for the Israeli victims that will be conducted under Jewish auspices in Brazil on August 14. The IOC will have a “moment of reflection” during the closing ceremony where it is hoped that IOC President Thomas Bach may read the names of those who lost their lives at the Olympics, which would of course include the 11 Israeli athletes. Moreover, for the first time the IOC is supporting a memorial at the former Olympic Village in Munich to the 11 Israeli athletes. These steps are long overdue and are only happening due to the leadership and tenacity of the victims’ families.

It is not expected that PA President Mahmoud Abbas will attend any of these events. Why would he, when only a few years ago he lauded Abu Daoud, the last living Palestinian Arab terrorist who personally perpetrated the attack in 1972. Abbas’ official telegram, sent in 2010 shortly after Daoud’s death, called him “one of the prominent leaders of the Fatah movement.” He continued his praise of the man who “lived a life filled with the struggle, devoted effort, and the enormous sacrifice of the deceased for the sake of the legitimate problem of his people, in many spheres.” And finally: “He was at the forefront on every battlefield, with the aim of defending the [Palestinian] revolution. What a wonderful brother, companion, tough and stubborn, relentless fighter.” Daoud himself years earlier wrote a book about the Olympic attack in which he described how Abbas kissed him on the forehead and wished him luck before the Munich attack. Ironically, Daoud could not understand how Abbas was now treated as a respected head of state.

There is a famous saying in the Talmud that he who is merciful to the cruel will in turn be cruel to the merciful. Barring the Palestinian Authority from fielding an Olympic team is the moral and proper thing to do. Making it a requirement that they need to condemn the generation-old Olympic Munich massacre, and pay reparations to the victims, before being able to participate would be considered a reasonable requirement. And yet, even such a trivial requirement is not made. Instead, the Palestinian Authority is allowed to field an Olympic team while still proudly being led by the unapologetic financier of the Olympic Munich massacre.

The fight against terrorism will only be won when there are consequences for engaging in terrorism. The failure to hold the Palestinian Authority to even minimal standards of human decency is why terrorism continues within their midst. In keeping with the Olympic spirit that is often spoken about, it seems only right that we start to follow moral principles and standards. Understandably, the expectation that such principles and standards be enforced seems little to ask if we are to ever win the battle against such evil.

About the Author
Farley Weiss is the president of the National Council of Young Israel, a member of the Conference of Presidents that represents around 25,000 Orthodox Jewish families and around 130 synagogues across America, the president of the intellectual property law firm of Weiss & Moy, P.C. with offices in Scottsdale, AZ, Boca Raton, FL, and Las Vegas, NV. He has authored opeds in the Arizona Republic, The Jerusalem Post, The Forward, and Hamodia, and has spoken around the country on political issues affecting Israel and American Jewry.
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