Israel has competed at the Olympic Games since 1952. Forty years later, in 1992,
Israeli athletes won, for the first time, the silver and bronze medals and
Israel has since gone on to win a total of seven medals, including a gold by Gal
Fridman in the 2004 sailing competition in Athens.
But this year, the
number 40 has special significance for a different reason.
participation and success in the Olympic games has remained overshadowed by the
Munich Massacre in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by members of the
Black September terrorist group during the 1972 Olympics – 40 years
And the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has never held an
official memorial service in their memory.
Ankie Spitzer, the widow of
murdered athlete Andrei Spitzer, and Ilana Romano, the widow of murdered athlete
Yossef Romano, have been trying for years to convince the IOC to honor the dead
in a minute of silence.
Teaming up in 2010 with the Jewish Community
Center of Rockland, New York, they have doubled their efforts and are now
leading a campaign through the website munich11.org to get 100,000 people to
sign a petition.
Spitzer writes, “Silence is a fitting tribute for
athletes who lost their lives on the Olympic stage. Silence contains no
statements, assumptions or beliefs and requires no understanding of language to
In a parallel but unrelated effort to help raise awareness,
students from the Catholic University of America have taken action and created a
YouTube video in which they declare their support for one minute of silence at
the 2012 London Olympics.
A student tells viewers, “As a generation of
young people affected by the September 11 attacks, we feel it is important to
raise awareness and to stand in solidarity with victims of terrorism
Another student says, “It is our charge, our call, to reach
out to others... to promote values of respect and justice throughout the world,
and I think the Olympics share those ideals.”
And another student says,
“In the 40 years since this massacre occurred, the International Olympic
Committee has failed to properly memorialize this event. It is important that we
remember and we learn from this tragedy as a global community – send a message
that we stand together in solidarity with all of the victims of violence and
terror, whoever and wherever they may be.”
And the best place to do that
is at the Olympics.
Aside from grassroots campaigns, governments have
taken up the cause as well.
The American, Canadian and Australian
parliaments have all passed a resolution calling on the IOC to hold a minute’s
As reported by JTA, the US Senate unanimously passed a
resolution on Monday urging the IOC to observe a moment of silence at the 2012
London Olympics for the Munich 11.
A similar resolution introduced in the
US House of Representatives by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Nita Lowey (D-NY)
was passed unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “We are not
persuaded by arguments articulated by members of the IOC and others that a
minute of silence would politicize the Olympic Games or risk alienating
countries that have disagreements with Israel,” Engel and Lowey said.
ROLE of the IOC, according to the Olympic Charter on its website, includes:
encourage and support the promotion of ethics in sport as well as education of
youth through sport and to dedicate its efforts to ensuring that, in sport, the
spirit of fair play prevails and violence is banned;
• To cooperate with the
competent public or private organisations and authorities in the endeavour to
place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace;
• To act
against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement;
• To oppose
any political or commercial abuse of sport and athletes;
• To promote a positive
legacy from the Olympic Games to the host cities and host countries;
encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and
AS EXPLAINED in an editorial in this paper last month, the
horror of the Munich tragedy was amplified by the fact that the terrorists
ruthlessly exploited an atmosphere of mutual brotherhood and peace among the
nations that is at the heart of the Olympic Games.
Their actions went
completely against the values in the charter and a minute of silence at the
games next month would reinforce these values.
But the IOC has rejected
the ongoing worldwide petition seeking a moment of silence at the London
While it has, over the years, attended side events memorializing
the murdered athletes, the IOC has never made it an official part of the Olympic
Last month, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon asked the
IOC in an official letter to commemorate those killed on the 40th anniversary of
their deaths. This was the first time the government of Israel has ever made a
formal request concerning this issue.
But in his written response, IOC
President Jacques Rogge did not specifically address the request of a minute’s
Ayalon 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.
rejection told us as Israelis that this tragedy is ours alone and not a tragedy
within the family of nations,” he added. “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.”
Forty years of silence can be reversed in one
minute. If only the IOC would care.