Olympic Committee Opposes Memorial for Israeli Athletes Killed in Munich

As RD readers know, I am not one to jump on my Jewish community’s frequent bandwagons of flag-waving, nationalism, or Calling Attention to the Evils of Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. (Often, the three go together.) But I am joining not just the mainstream community but also the US Senate, President Obama, the governments of Canada and Germany, and, most recently, Bob Costas in shouting a collective, outraged “WTF” at the International Olympic Committee for refusing to hold a minute of silence in memory of the eleven Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics forty years ago.

I have yet to hear any rationale for the IOC’s intransigence on this point. Whatever one thinks of Israel, Palestine, and the Israel/Palestine issue, what happened in 1972 was cold-blooded murder, even if it was politically motivated. This is a significant anniversary of that event, and some vague “separate ceremony” promised by the IOC is not a sufficient gesture. 

To be honest, I feel a little uncomfortable taking this position. It feels a little jingoistic, especially as I know that many of the Jewish leaders calling for the memorial—though not the original petitioner, a widow of one of the slain athletes—are indeed annoying, and often ethnocentric in their fervor. Well, so be it. This is the right thing to do, and supporting this cause offers progressives an opportunity to support a just Israeli action, even as we may criticize others as being unjust. 

What to do? Well, you can join the 100,000 other people who’ve signed a petition, or buy a T-shirt. My favorite idea so far: one blogger recently suggested that “when the Israeli delegation enters the stadium, they should stop dead in their tracks and stand silently for exactly one minute.” I doubt this will happen, given the scripting of the opening ceremony, but wouldn’t it be great if it did? It’d be a perfect reflection of the IOC’s own intransigence: standing still, refusing to budge, only this time opposing injustice rather than perpetuating it.