Sunday, July 22, 2012

International Olympic Committee Denies Public Honor to Israeli Athletes Murdered at 1972 Games

[Note: This entry also appeared on my Facebook wall on July 22, 2012.]

The 1972 Olympic Games, held in Munich, Germany, are the first Games that I remember watching closely as a boy.* I recall some of the track and field events, but what I remember most is the ominous video images of the "Black September" terrorists, holding guns and wearing masks over their heads, as they stood on the balconies of the building where the Israeli athletes were staying. I remember asking my dad, "What is a terrorist?" (I was 8 years old at the time.) My dad explained "terrorism" to me briefly, and although I fairly quickly forgot his explanation, one thought that has remained with me is that terrorism is evil.

I'm not a blind supporter of the state of Israel. Many people who know me know how strongly I feel about the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. At the same time, I sympathize with the Jewish people who, after the genocide in Europe before and during World War II, did not have many other places to go. I also sympathize with the Arab population living in the region of Palestine at the time, their forced deportation, and the difficult conditions under which many of them live today. Furthermore, I am very cautious about the term, "anti-Semitism," because I think it's a word that has been used excessively to the point where it has lost a lot of its impact and meaning.

Having said all that, the decision of the International Olympic Committee not to hold a brief public remembrance, at this summer's games in London, for the Israeli athletes who were murdered at the 1972 games is appalling. Indeed, I believe it is rooted in anti-Semitism.

I don't hurl such charges lightly, but I believe it is justified in this case. Whether we like it or not, the Olympic Games exist in a broader context than that defined by sports. I am seriously disappointed that the IOC persists in its state of denial of the gravity of the murders at the 1972 games. A private commemoration of the athletes who lost their lives is appropriate, but a dignified and brief public honoring of the memory of those athletes is also appropriate. The IOC needs to come down from the clouds of idealism and ideology and show some respect to those innocent persons who died in Munich in 1972.

This article in the Jerusalem Post reports the news story:

* I have only the foggiest of memories of watching a few events of the 1968 games. However, those memories are really quite limited, and they exist in the context of fragments of memory about the Dr. King assassination, riots in my hometown of Chicago, the Robert Kennedy assassination, and the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention. Even at the ages of 4-5, and though I lacked a vocabulary to express the thoughts, I sensed I was growing up in a very violent, crazy world.

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