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The IOC’s obstinacy on Munich speaks volumes
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The IOC’s obstinacy on Munich speaks volumes

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The International Olympics Committee’s refusal to permit a moment of silence in memory of the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre is, as historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote for Tablet.com last week, an affirmation that Jewish blood is cheap. The IOC’s argument that it does not want to “politicize” the London games, which begin July 27, is ludicrous.

The U.S. Congress, the President of the United States, the Canadian Parliament, the Australian Parliament, the Italian Parliament, and the German Bundestag have all passed resolutions and/or issued statements calling upon the IOC to hold a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies in memory of 11 Israeli team members who were killed at the 1972 Munich Games. Conspicuously missing was a resolution from the English Parliament.

The best the 650 MP’s could muster were 55 votes on an “Early Day Motion” — equivalent to a “sense of the Congress” resolution.

As Labour MP and former Minister in the European Parliament Dennis MacShane, a vigorous opponent of anti-Semitism, wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron: “If the IOC treats the memory of the dead Jewish Olympians with indifference then shame on them,…but I am sure most MPs would welcome some statement from the British Government in support of a commemoration moment.… If the IOC persists in its stubborn disregard of the anti-Jewish atrocity committed at the 1972 Olympics then I hope Britain can organize its own ceremony to say again ‘Never Again’ to Jew-killing in the name of any ideology or cause.”

While Cameron has not responded, IOC President Jacques Rogge called for a minute of silence at a ceremony at the Athletes Village in London on Monday, with Sebastian Coe, chair of the London Olympic organizing committee, in attendance. Better than nothing, one supposes, but nothing like the global stage the opening ceremonies command.

The issue reveals much about the state of, at best, latent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel feeling around the world and especially in Great Britain. There continues to be a rather startling insensitivity in the British Parliament when it comes to human rights issues involving Jews.

A further example of the insulting way the English treat Jews was the BBC’s treatment of Israel in its on-line Olympic guide. The guide listed East Jerusalem as the capital of “Palestine,” while listing no capital for the Israeli team. While this was corrected last weekend after much pressure from the Israeli Government, the BBC’s subsequent attempts to be politically correct were remarkable. The BBC’s site was amended to read Jerusalem is Israel’s “seat of government…though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.” The Palestinian entry now reads that “its intended seat of government” is East Jerusalem, while “Ramallah serves as administrative capital.” This may pass muster on the West Bank, but the BBC will probably be twisting in circles when Hamas demands that Gaza City also be listed as an administrative capital.

There is another rather embarrassing side to this saga. Where are the advocacy voices of Anglo Jewry? They might fail to move the IOC, but they ought to be able to gain more than 55 MP’s to sign on to a symbolic resolution. Is the political clout of Anglo Jewry so weak, and are they so timid, that less than 10 percent of MP’s in Parliament felt it was “politically” wise or necessary for them to sign on?

Within the international community it was the World Jewish Congress and especially its president, Ronald Lauder, which lambasted the IOC for its failure to institute the moment of silence.

In the United States, it took the one very public figure whose voice had been absent and who has a history of leadership in the Olympics, Mitt Romney, almost a week before he issued a statement on Monday in support of the moment of silence. It will be interesting to see how he responds in public to press queries — when he is in London on Friday for the opening of the Games and then in Israel next Sunday — as to why he did not move earlier or even do something in 2002 when he was the organizing host for the winter games in Salt Lake City.

It took the veteran American sportscaster — Bob Costas, the face of NBC’s Olympics coverage — to demonstrate how this matter should be handled. He announced he was not prepared to let his viewers fail to acknowledge the tragedy of Munich. Costas said that in his broadcast of the opening, there would be a moment of silence for the murdered Israelis athletes.

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