Lowey, Engel Urge IOC To Honor Munich 11

They are asking for a minute of silence at the 2012 Olympics.


40 years and 26,000 signatures later, local officials are still urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reconsider its refusal to honor Israeli athletes murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

On May 3, U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) urged the IOC to honor those athletes with a minute of silence at the 2012 London Olympic Games opening ceremonies.

“The murder of 11 Israeli athletes by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics was a tragedy that reverberated far beyond the Games,” said Lowey, Ranking Democrat on the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee.  “It is necessary, important, and right to hold a minute of silence in recognition of the victims. The continued refusal of the International Olympic Committee to honor the memories of these victims is unfathomable, and I urge the IOC to reconsider its decision.

“The murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches can no longer be ignored by the International Olympic Committee.  It’s time that the IOC set aside a moment of silence to remember all of the victims,” said Engel, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  “I urge the IOC to reconsider its appalling decision and stop standing in the way of an appropriate, solemn recognition of the horror which befell the Games 40 years ago.”

Steve Gold, a past-president and current member of JCC Rockland’s board of directors, is chairing the Minute of Silence campaign.

“The idea that IOC for 39 years has said ‘no’ to honoring the memory of 11 Olympic athletes is despicable … and no one ever gives (us) a reason. It needs to be recognized,” said Gold. “They went in the spirit of the Olympics and they came home in caskets.

Lowey and Engel announced their intention to introduce a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on the IOC to honor the Munich 11, and released the text of a letter to be sent directly to the IOC urging reconsideration of the decision.

Family members of victims of the 1972 Munich massacre like Ankie Spitzer and community organizations like Jewish Community Center (JCC) Rockland launched an online petition urging IOC to honor the victims with a minute of silence at the London 2012 opening ceremonies that has gained more than 20,000 signatures.

“We decided, with the families, to give it one more shot and use social media to get the word out. It’s working,” said Gold.

Gold added that they have many petition partners from Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, even Catholic universities have students with organized petition drives.

“It feels good that we’re making some noise. Although they keep saying no, maybe this time they’ll say yes, when they see that the world is demanding the recognition,” added Gold. “I think this is the only online petition that isn’t reacting to current events. It’s reacting to an event that was 39 years ago and that is pretty amazing.”

Here is the Lowey and Engel’s letter:

Jacques Rogge

President, International Olympic Committee

Château de Vidy

Case postale 356

1001 Lausanne, Switzerland

Dear President Rogge:

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.  As we look forward to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, we write to request that you schedule a minute of silence during the opening ceremonies to honor the memories of these athletes – known as the Munich 11 – and to call attention to the ongoing need to be constantly vigilant against prejudice, hate, and intolerance.

In the early morning hours of September 5, 1972, eight members of a Palestinian militant group called Black September broke into the Munich Olympic village and entered the building where the Israeli team was staying.  An athlete and a coach were killed in the dormitory, while nine others – four athletes, three coaches, and two referees – were taken hostage.  Less than twenty four hours later, after several failed rescue attempts and a gun fight that left a German police officer dead, the nine hostages were also killed. 

The massacre of the Munich 11 was a jarring reminder that the Olympic Games – long a symbol of international cooperation and camaraderie – are not wholly divorced from the hatred and intolerance that still exists throughout the world.  We believe that a minute of silence at this year’s games would be a powerful reminder that such terrible acts of violence will not go unremembered, and that all those witnessing the Opening Ceremonies must continue to work toward a world where people of any nation, race, or religion can live free of fear.

We are not persuaded by arguments articulated by members of the IOC and others that a minute of silence would politicize the Olympic Games or risk alienating countries that have disagreements with Israel.  The Munich 11 were athletes, coaches, and referees proudly representing their country when they were gunned down in an act of terrorism; a minute of silence would be a recognition of their sacrifice and a show of unity against terrorism period, not an endorsement of any political position. 

According to The Nielson Company, over two billion people watched the Beijing Opening Ceremonies.  The Olympics provide a unique opportunity to send a message that can literally reach every corner of the globe.  While the Opening Ceremonies will – and should – be a joyful celebration of the international community putting aside political differences and coming together in a time-honored tradition of friendly competition, taking a single minute of those Ceremonies to remind the world of the forces that still threaten that unity would be both powerful and appropriate.

We therefore urge you to add a minute of silence to honor the Munich 11 to this year’s Opening Ceremonies.  Thank you for your consideration.


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