American-Jewish leaders have decried the failure of the International Olympic Committee to appropriately acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre as an insult to Jews and Israel. And that, we suspect, is one reason the IOC refused to spare a moment in memory of 11 slain Israeli athletes during Friday evening’s opening ceremonies.
Those who describe this as a Jewish, Israeli, or Middle East issue are making the same mistake as the IOC — in our case tactical, in their case essential. Remembering Munich at the Olympics is not about Israel, and it is not about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is about 11 murdered athletes, whose deaths sullied the Olympic ideal as no other act before or since.
According to the Olympic charter, “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
Despite all the jingoism, medal-counting, and flag-waving, we’re told every four years that the athletes’ village is its own world apart, a haven where citizens of the world of sport can live under a pax Olympica. Armed gunmen — it shouldn’t matter, at least from the perspective of the Olympics themselves, that they were Palestinian — literally invaded that territory and killed 11 men gathered to compete in a sporting event. Such an affront to “Olympism” demanded a statement like the following: “We take no stand on world conflicts but bow our heads in sadness when one of those conflicts breaches the very walls of our sanctuary.”
By not bringing themselves to say something like that, the IOC is essentially endorsing the Palestinian argument that they had a right to carry their conflict into the Olympic compound. Either the Olympics represents a refuge from global conflict or it doesn’t; the IOC can’t have it both ways.
Murder is the ultimate denial of human dignity. If the IOC can’t acknowledge how its own charter was breached under its own flag, what are its ideals worth?