Congress is getting involved in the fight to observe a moment of silence for the Munich 11 at this summer’s Olympic Games, with new House legislation and two leaders slamming the International Olympic Committee’s refusals as “indefensible.”
“Your refusal has caused sorrow and anger for the family members of the murdered Olympians, for the people of Israel, and for many other people across the globe,” House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) wrote today to IOC president Jacques Rogge.
“Many of us have not forgotten that when the IOC held a service after the murder of the Israeli Olympians in 1972, your predecessor as President of the IOC failed even to mention them in his remarks,” they added. “The IOC’s actions on this matter since then have done little to erase that memory.”
The families of the victims of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian terrorists have been urging the IOC to hold a minute of silence for four decades, to no avail, noting that the IOC has expressed fears of angering Arab states. The state of Israel, through a letter from Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, asked Rogge to hold the tribute.
Rogge restated the IOC’s consistent refusal in a May 15 letter to Ayalon. “The IOC has officially paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions,” Rogge said. “Within the Olympic family, the memory of the victims of the terrible massacre in Munich in 1972 will never fade away.”
On Monday, the IOC defended its rejection of a memorial minute, claiming yet again that they regularly honor the slain Israelis.
The IOC has never held a ceremony for the slain Israelis at the Olympic Games, but sends a representative to the ceremony held by the Israel National Olympic Committee at each Games. Ayalon said the response “told us as Israelis that this tragedy is yours alone and not a tragedy within the family of nations.” Berman and Ros-Lehtinen called the attendance at the Israelis’ own ceremony “insufficient.”
Arutz Sheva noted late last month that the IOC’s official website for the London Olympics listed Jerusalem as the capital of “Palestine” while listing no capital for Israel. It then reversed the capitals, but listed Palestine in Asia and Israel in Europe. A check reveals the classifications are still there.
The petition started online by Ankie Spitzer, widow of slain fencing master and team coach Andre Spitzer, now has more than 50,000 signatures. “One minute of silence will clearly say to the world that what happened in 1972 can never happen again,” Spitzer says in the petition. “Please do not let history repeat itself.”
New York Democrats Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel, both on the Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to Rogge earlier this month asking the IOC to reconsider after its initial refusal.
“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,” they wrote. “The Munich 11 were athletes, coaches, and referees proudly representing their country when they were gunned down in an act of terrorism; a minute of silence would be a recognition of their sacrifice and a show of unity against terrorism period, not an endorsement of any political position.”
Last week, Rogge issued another denial, and Engel introduced a House resolution calling on the IOC to hold the minute of silence. The bill’s co-sponsors are Lowey and Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and it “urges the International Olympic Committee to recognize with a minute of silence at every future Olympics Opening Ceremony, beginning with the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, those who lost their lives at the 1972 Munich Olympics in an effort to reject and repudiate terrorism as antithetical to the Olympic goal of peaceful competition.”
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment by PJM. There has been no comment from the White House.
Ros-Lehtinen and Berman had to spell out the benefits for Rogge of observing a minute of silence, in addition to being an appropriate gesture for the families: “It would do credit of the Olympic Games, the IOC, and all Olympians. It would reaffirm Olympic values of honor, harmony, and fraternity, the very values that violent extremists horrifically repudiated by butchering the Israeli Olympians.”
Ankie Spitzer said that the IOC told her it doesn’t want to anger Arab countries with a moment of silence for the slain Israelis.
“They tell us that the Arab delegations will get up and leave, to which I said: ‘It’s okay; if they don’t understand what the Olympics are all about, let them leave,’” she said.