Family members of the Munich Massacre victims have been asking and campaigning for a better effort in terms of public recognition for those who were killed. It became a larger deal when the IOC faced backlash for refusing to hold a moment of silence, marking the 10-year anniversary of the massacre, during the London Games of 2012. Fortunately, ahead of the Summer Olympics in Rio, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) held a ceremony to mourn the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches that were murdered at the hands of Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. The memorial began with the IOC President Thomas Bach reading the names of the 11 Israelis out loud following a minute of silence. Bach proclaimed that the massacre “was an attack not only on our fellow Olympians but also an assault on the values that the Olympic Village stands for.”
This memorial event was extremely important to those who had lost members of their family. Widows of two of the athletes who were present stated “We wanted them to be really accepted as members of the Olympic family. Now that President Bach had a minute of silence in the Olympic village, calling out the names of our loves ones, this is closure for us.”
Despite these recent positive efforts from the IOC, anti-Semitism was still prevalent at the 2016 Olympic games. From the Egyptian Judo athlete who refused to shake the Israeli athlete’s hand after defeat, to the Lebanese Olympians who refused to travel on the same bus as the Israeli team, there is still much hatred and refusal to open dialogue with Israel coming from her neighboring countries. The memorial brought to the forefront the very real and dangerous issues that Israelis face on an international level. Being able to not only understand, but recognize, the history of Israeli-Arab relations is vital for those who wants to open dialogue and find an end to the conflict.
The Munich Massacre was a Palestinian terrorist attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. The terrorist group was known as Black September and it was suspected that the terrorist had assistance from German neo-Nazis. Eleven Israeli Olympic Team members and a German police officer were taken hostage and ultimately killed. This was considered one of the first modern day international acts of terrorism, but it was certainly not the last. Since then, Israel has faced countless acts of terrorism from Palestinian led and funded groups, and often times are unable to defend themselves since these groups (like Hamas) use civilians, hospitals, schools, etc. to shield their bases of attack; attacks which often end with Palestinians celebrating in the streets with candy. By commemorating the attacks, the IOC has finally solidified this tragic event into history which will hopefully educate others and prevent an event like this from ever happening again.
Friends of Israel is a CAMERA-supported group dedicated to developing a student body educated in the historical and contemporary Middle East. On November 9th, in partnership with the German Culture Club, Political Science Club, CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), the ICC (Israel on Campus Coalition) and the ICC GW (Israel on Campus Coalition of Greater Washington), Friends of Israel organized a screening of the documentary Munich ’72 and Beyond at the historic Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg. Produced by Michael Cascio and Stephan Crisman, the film, which depicts the victims’ families’ struggle for knowledge about what happened on September 5, 1972 and their subsequent legal battles with the International Olympic Committee, was particularly salient following the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where a “Place of Mourning” was dedicated in an official I.O.C. ceremony. This gesture, while symbolic, confirmed the right of Israel to participate in the Olympic Games despite efforts to bar Israel from the Olympics despite refusal of some from the Middle East to compete against Israelis due to anti-Semitic feelings.
After the screening, Friends of Israel hosted a brief Q+A session including Professor Ken Stiles, a former CIA counter terrorism specialist, and Sam Kessler, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Judaic Studies. A bagel and grits dinner reception followed the documentary screening.