It is a comfort to know that on the eve of the XXX Olympiad, which starts Friday night in London, the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Games will be recalled at memorial services here and around the world.
At 11 a.m. on Friday, a service sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the New York Board of Rabbis and the Israeli Consulate, will be held in front of the Consulate on Second Avenue and 42nd Street. We urge our readers to show their respects and attend.
And every two years, on the eve of that year’s Summer or Winter Olympics, the athletes who are about to represent Israel on a world stage gather at a memorial for their slain countrymen.
Still, it is deeply disappointing, if not at all surprising, that despite an extensive international lobbying campaign — spearheaded by the Israelis’ survivors, the Rockland JCC and a coalition of Jewish and non-Jewish organizations — there will be no moment of silence or official mention of the martyred Israelis at the opening ceremony in London.
The International Olympic Committee, which has not approved such a silent memorial during past Games, has vetoed the idea in this anniversary year as well.
“We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident,” explained IOC President Jacques Rogge, a former Olympian who competed in the 1972 Games.
Too political, we imagine, for an international sporting event that bills itself as dedicated to apolitical unity.
To his credit, Rogge did pay tribute to the slain Israelis on Monday at the beginning of a ceremony attended by about 100 people in the Olympic Village. It was to promote the Olympic Truce, a United Nations initiative asking that all warring groups in the world suspend their violence during the Games.
(How sad that the UN is reduced to making such an empty request.)
Fortunately, there are many, not only in Israel, who have called for the far more public moment of silence at the beginning of the actual Games as the somber anniversary deserves.
President Barack Obama supports a moment of silence, as does London Mayor Boris Johnson, who will take part in a municipal memorial ceremony. And fortunately there is NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who says he is “baffled” by the IOC decision and plans to stage his own very public protest. In anticipation of broadcasting the opening ceremonies, he has said that when the small Israeli delegation enters the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium, “I intend to note that the IOC denied the request,” he told an interviewer. Modulating his voice as if he were on the air, he said he plans to say: “Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive. Here’s a minute of silence right now.”
At that point millions of people around the world will be watching a proud, courageous and defiant group of Israelis taking their rightful place alongside their peers. It no doubt will be a bittersweet moment of both great pride and sadness — one that encapsulates so much of the history and character of the Jewish state.
It is a poignant testimony to the state of the world, and ongoing vilification of Israel, that Israel is on high alert at the Games, fearing an attack on its representatives by an Iranian terror squad and a repetition of 1972.
Watching the delegation in the spotlight, friends of Israel and people of good will everywhere will remember the tragedy that took place 40 years ago. And remember those who have not yet learned its lessons.