Platt: Israeli victims of Munich Olympics deserve a moment of silence in London

Members of the Israeli Olympic team at the

Members of the Israeli Olympic team at the Munich Olympic stadium for the memorial ceremony paying tribute to their countrymen killed by Palestinian terrorists. (Credit: Getty Images, 1972)

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The hypocrisy is stunning.

Even as extraordinary security precautions have been taken in preparation for the London Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has refused to formally acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the worst security breakdown in Olympic history -- and what might be the bloodiest act of terror in the annals of sports.

The IOC finds itself unable to set aside even one minute of silence to mark the murder of 11 Israeli Olympic team members at the 1972 Summer Games.


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That year, the games were held in Munich, Germany. The organizers were eager to erase the memory of the last German Olympics, in 1936, when Adolf Hitler was the host and Nazism was riding high.

But that was not to be. Eight Palestinian terrorists belonging to the Black September group entered the Olympic village carrying machine guns and grenades, murdering two members of the Israeli contingent and taking another nine hostage. They demanded that Israel release more than 200 Palestinian terrorists and that Germany release two notorious terrorist leaders. When that could not be arranged, they asked for a plane to take them to Egypt. After a 20-hour standoff, an attempted police ambush at the airport led to a shootout during which the terrorists killed their captives.

Not until the next day did the IOC -- under intense public pressure -- suspend the games for a few hours and hold a memorial service, at which IOC president Avery Brundage declared that, "The games must go on." West Germany released the three terrorists who survived the gun battle a few months later, a price demanded by Black September for the return of a hijacked Lufthansa plane.

Every four years since then, the families of the Israeli victims have asked the IOC to schedule some commemorative ceremony at the Olympics. They have never been granted their wish.

This year, Ankie Spitzer, widow of Israeli fencing coach Andre Spitzer, one of the victims, launched a worldwide campaign for a minute of silence at the London Olympics, preferably during Friday's opening ceremony, to mark four decades since the tragedy. She explained, "We want the Olympic Committee, with all 10,000 young athletes in front of them, to say, 'Let us not forget what happened in Munich.' "

She has assembled a broad coalition of supporters. The Israeli government formally urged the IOC to grant the minute of silence. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for it. So did the parliaments of Canada and Australia, the German Bundestag, about 140 Italian parliamentarians and some 50 members of Britain's Parliament.

Students at the Catholic University of America produced a film making the case through Facebook and Twitter. The Rockland Jewish Community Center gathered more than 100,000 signatures in favor of the minute of silence.

In denying the request, the IOC claims it does not want to politicize the Games. But it has commemorated tragedies before, for example in 2002, in memory of the victims of 9/11. IOC president Jacques Rogge affirmed his organization's commitment to learning from the past, saying, "What happened in Munich in 1972 strengthened the determination of the Olympic movement to contribute more than ever to building a peaceful and better world by educating young people through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind." And in response to criticism, he "spontaneously" called for a minute of silence Monday at a small gathering in the athletes village. But why the stubborn reluctance to devote 60 seconds to the grim anniversary at the Games' formal opening, when it might have had a worldwide impact in front of 80,000 spectators and a TV audience of millions?

The real answer, it seems, was conveyed verbally to Ankie Spitzer by Rogge. As she tells it, he told her that "his hands were tied" since 46 Arab and Muslim countries belong to the IOC. In other words, there would be no minute of silence only because the victims were Israelis. She replied, "No, my husband's hands were tied, not yours."

The Olympic Games have now begun and they will continue for 17 days. There is still time for the IOC to stand up to the Arab/Muslim bloc, reverse its perverse decision and regain its honor.

Lilli Platt is director of the American Jewish Committee Long Island regional office.

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