Rockland Jewish Community Center members and widows of two slain Israeli Olympians continued to pressure the International Olympic Committee to approve a minute of silence in honor of the 11 Israelis murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Munich games.
A JCC contingent and the widows held a news conference in London seeking to ratchet up the pressure on IOC President Jacque Rogge, who has rejected the latest calls for a special observance at the opening ceremonies on Friday.
Rogge acknowledged the 1972 murders on the 40th anniversary with an impromptu tribute on Monday during an event in the Olympic Village.
Advocates were not satisfied.
The JCC members were joined by two leading advocates – Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, widows of two of the slain Israelis. The two women have been seeking a tribute at the Olympics for close to 40 years. The JCC contingent in London includes the movement president Steve Gold, JCC-CEO David Kirschtel, and members Micki Leader and Joe Allen.
The JCC members, Spitzer and Romano also were armed with a petition carrying more than 107,000 signatures seeking a minute of silence on Friday, as well as support from President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Rockland Congress members – Reps. Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey – also added their voices again. Their resolution has passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee and awaits the Republican Majority placing it on the agenda for a full House vote.
Engel and Lowey released the following statement:
“With the Olympic Games beginning this week, the IOC has a chance to honor the memories of their fallen heroes and mark the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. This is not a political issue, but a matter of human decency. The Munich 11 were part of the Olympic family, and IOC’s rejection thus far of a minute of silence is unacceptable. The list of those who agree that a minute of silence is the right thing to do continues to grow – President Barack Obama added his voice to the chorus of world leaders who have supported this cause. Even the voice of the Olympic coverage, Bob Costas, has called for the IOC to change their minds. While the IOC held a moment of silence at a private speech in front of 30-40 people this week, we believe that this message must be delivered before billions, not dozens.
“We applaud the efforts of JCC Rockland who have traveled to London and joined with the Israeli Ambassador to Great Britain and the families of the victims to personally urge the IOC to change their mind. The Olympics provide a unique opportunity to send a message that reaches billions of people from every corner of the globe. The clock is ticking on the IOC to do the right thing, and we remain hopeful that they will.”
Back in 1972, the murders and live telecast of the standoff at the airport shocked the world. The Palestinian terrorist group “Black September” – tied to PLO chief Yasser Arafat – took nine hostages after killing two Israelis in the initial attack at the Olympic village.
All but three of the Palestinians were killed with their Israeli hostages during the German attack on the airplane. Three PLO survivors were released by the West German government on October 29, 1972, in exchange for a hijacked Lufthansa jet. Two of the three were later hunted down and assassinated by Israel’s Mossad.
The International Olympic Committee hardly slowed down the 1972 games, even as Israelis buried their dead Olympians back home. Avery Brundage, then the International Olympic Committee president, declared that “the games must go on,” 24 hours afters after a memorial ceremony in Olympic stadium.
The families of the Munich 11 have been asking the IOC to commemorate the deaths of their loved ones since the attack nearly 40 years ago, first seeking recognition at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
The IOC and its president have claimed holding a minute if silence would bring politics into the Olympic games. Gold said the IOC fears the Arab nations would boycott the Olympics if the Israelis were honored.
Politics has been a staple of the Olympics.
During the 1936 Berlin Olympics, American Jewish Olympians were told not to participate because it might offend the Nazi government and Chancellor Adolf Hitler. Brundage led the U.S Olympic Committee in 1936.
The 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles were boycotted by the Soviet Union and 13 communist-supported nations. The protest came four years after the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Gold said the JCC would continue its advocacy for a minute of silence at the 2016 games in Brazil.