What if I told you that America was refusing to set up a memorial to the victims of 9/11 in order not to offend the Muslim world? You’d say that’s crazy; it would never happen, right? Think again. We’re not talking about 9/11 though, we are talking about the Munich Massacre, and the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) bowing to the sensitivities of the Arab world.
Some background first: Forty years ago, on September 5, a group of Palestinian-Islamic terrorists stormed the Olympic Village, taking 11 Israeli athletes and coaches hostage. They demanded the release of 234 prisoners held in Israeli jails in exchange for the Olympians. The standoff between German police and the terrorists lasted 16 hours, ending in a botched rescue attempt. By the time it was over, all 11 Israeli athletes had been murdered.
One of the most chilling aspects of this tragedy was that within just 200 yards of where the Israeli athletes were being held hostage, Olympians sat and sunbathed and played ping pong, without a care in the world. It gives me chills when I watch a documentary about the event, One Day in September, and see the striking juxtaposition of the Olympic athletes competing in the races, while at the same time the Israeli Olympians are locked up in fear nearby. (Check out moment 9:21 on the video below.) That all this took place on German soil, only 27 years after the Holocaust, only adds fuel to the fire.
In all moments of difficulty in life, I try to see the silver lining. What have we learned from this tragedy? I wish I could say that the world has changed since that time, that anti-Semitic incidents are on the decline, that Jewish blood is no longer cheap, that the world has learned from the mistakes of the past. Sadly, however, as it is written in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun” (v. 1:9).
Just weeks ago, five Israelis were killed and 30 wounded after a suicide bomber attacked their tour bus while on vacation in Bulgaria. Their only offense was being Jewish. All across Europe, anti-Semitic incidents occur at disturbingly high levels. You would think that with the Olympics taking place in London this year, the IOC would be quick to honor the murdered Olympians, and make a statement that terrorism is unacceptable.
Not so. For the last 40 years, the widows of the murdered athletes have begged the IOC to remember the murdered Munich Israeli athletes with a legitimate moment of silence and/or a memorial. It’s such a simple and obvious request. The IOC refuses, however, many saying it’s because they don’t want to get into “politics.”
I wish I could say that the world has learned from its mistakes and that, today, 60 years after the Holocaust, Jewish people around the world no longer suffer for the simple fact that they were born Jewish. Unfortunately, I cannot. I do, however, have tremendous hope that, with the support of our Christian friends around the world, the future will be brighter.