An online petition urging the International Olympic Committee to hold a minute of silence in memory of 11 Israelis murdered at the Olympic summer games in Munich 40 years ago continues to gain momentum even though the request was already rejected by the IOC out of hand.
The 11 Israelis were murdered on the final day of the XXth Olympic Summer Games in 1972 by members of Black September, a Palestinian terrorist organization. Efforts to win a moment of silence in their memory have been ongoing ever since. The request this year was for 60 seconds of silence at the opening ceremonies of this summer’s XXXth Summer Games, being held in London beginning on July 27.
The petition was launched by JCC Rockland in West Nyack and Ankie Spitzer, a Munich 11 widow. It was expected to gain no more than 10,000 signatures by opening day of the London games. Instead, by midday Tuesday, with 66 days left, the petition already gathered more than 46,000 signatures from around the world. The petition is hosted at change.org, an online organization that aids grassroots advocacy groups in obtaining a wider reach. It may also be accessed at www.munich11.org.
On May 14, the IOC formally refused a request from the Israeli government to grant the minute of silence at the London ceremonies. Spitzer, the widow of slain fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, has been asking for the minute of silence since the Montreal games in 1976.
In his May 14 letter, Jacques Rogge, the IOC head, insisted that the committee “has officially paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions and will continue to do so in close coordination with the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Israel.” The letter was addressed to Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who had made the request, as well as to Spitzer and Ilana Romano, the wife of murdered weightlifter Yosef Romano. Both women have served as representatives of the Munich 11 families over the years.
“Traditionally, the Israeli NOC hosts a reception in memory of the victims during the Games period, and the IOC is always strongly represented,” Rogge wrote. “The upcoming Games in London will be no exception, and there will be a commemoration at the Guildhall, which I shall attend.”
Reaction on the part of petition organizers was one of dismay and outrage.
“This is a real cop out on the part of the IOC,” said David Kirschtel, CEO of JCC Rockland, who has been behind the facility’s efforts to memorialize the Munich 11 during its preparation for hosting the JCC Maccabi Games this summer.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” Kirschtel said. “A minute of silence is something within their power to grant and it’s the right thing to do. We knew when we started that getting the IOC to agree was an uphill battle. We’re going to keep pushing the petition right up until the start of the Olympics.”
Ayalon, who opened a pro-petition Facebook page in the wake of the IOC refusal, also reacted. “Unfortunately,” he said in an e-mail, “this response is unacceptable as it rejects the central principles of global fraternity on which the Olympic ideal is supposed to rest. The terrorist murders of the Israeli athletes were not just an attack on people because of their nationality and religion; it was an attack on the Olympic games and the international community. Thus it is necessary for the Olympic Games as a whole to commemorate this event in the open rather than only in a side event.”