The Olympics and the Peace Process
Jonathan S. Tobin
The controversy about the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Munich massacre has taught us a lot about what is wrong with both the Olympic movement and the way the international community thinks about Israel. It bears repeating that were the athletes of any other country to be murdered the way the 11 Israelis were slain at Munich in 1972, remembrance would have become a permanent feature of opening ceremonies of the games. But doing so for these victims is deemed a political intrusion into the joy of the sports extravaganza. But lest anyone forget why this is so, the Palestinian Authority gave us a sharp reminder not only of the motivation of the Black September terrorists who committed this crime but of why the peace process is dead in the water.
As Palestine Media Watch reports, Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, wrote the following in a letter sent to IOC Chair Jacques Rogge commending his refusal of a moment of silence that was published by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida yesterday:
Sports are meant for peace, not for racism … Sports are a bridge to love, interconnection, and spreading of peace among nations; it must not be a cause of division and spreading of racism between them.
The article in the PA newspaper referred to the massacre as “the Munich Operation, which took place during the Munich Olympics in 1972.” The point is, the PA thinks of this atrocity as a heroic deed and part of the historical legacy of the Palestinian national movement, not an act of terrorism. Jibril praises Rogge because honoring the victims of Munich is, in the view of the Palestinians, an indictment of them. Worry about offending the Palestinians by drawing attention to their past is the real reason for the IOC’s refusal. But the implications of this issue go much farther than the Olympics. The devotion of the Palestinians to the memory of the Munich terrorists is a symptom of the way their political culture clings not just to violence but also to opposition to the legitimacy of Israel.
The reference to “racism” in Rajoub’s letter isn’t just a recycling of liberal pap meant to resonate with the politically correct world of the IOC. It was a carefully chosen word that harkened to the Palestinian belief that the existence of Israel was an act of “racism.” They believe the Munich attack was not only heroic but justified because Israel, its athletes and its people have no place in the Middle East. As Palestine Media Watch documents, the PA media and its officials have often praised the Munich terrorists who, after all, carried out their crime at the behest of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat (the “Black September” organization that was said to have organized the attack was merely a cover for Arafat’s Fatah).
The reaction to the demand for a moment of silence has taught us a lot. It gave friends of Israel, even those whose affection for the Jewish state is somewhat lukewarm like President Obama, an opportunity to do the right thing and join the call to remember the victims of Munich. Others, such as NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who has said he will impose his own moment of silence when the Israeli team enters the stadium for the opening gala, have proved their seriousness and devotion to principle.
But for Palestinians, the issue was another chance to show us that their political culture has yet to reach the point of maturity where they can jettison their terrorist past. Having come into existence in the 20th century as an expression of a desire to reject the Jews more than to promote a specifically Palestinian Arab identity, their national movement is still mired in the swamp of terror. Their attitude toward Munich shows they have yet to grow up. It’s not likely they will until the world forces them to do so rather than, as Rogge has done, indulge their destructive embrace of terror.