Olympics chief seeks to erase Jewish history but a widow fights back
There was a telling contrast at the opening of the Olympic games between the showing of a video of the 52 victims killed in the 2005 suicide bombings of the London transit system and the abject refusal of Olympics President Jacques Rogge to stage a minute of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Black September Palestinian terrorists at the Munich games 40 years ago.
USA Today sports reporter Christine Brennan called it the "worst decision of the opening ceremony, extraordinarily bad judgment and a slap in the face" of the remembrance due to these slaughtered Israeli Olympians.
And indeed it was. It didn't matter that President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, the U.S. Senate, Australia, Canada and other countries urged Rogge to relent and include in the opening program a fitting remembrance of the slain Israelis in the Munich massacre in 1972. Nor did Rogge take into account a petition signed by more than 100,000 people in more than 100 countries urging him to honor the memory of the Munich victims.
Nor, worst of all, did it make any difference to him when he met with Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Israel's fencing coach, who implored him to let the world know and remember, if only for a brief moment, the Munich tragedy that took the life of her husband and 10 others on the Israeli Olympic team.
"These athletes were part of the Olympic family," Spitzer reminded Rogge. "They were not accidental tourists. I can come to only one conclusion: The victims had the wrong religion; they came from the wrong country."
And indeed, there is no other conclusion, even though Rogge tried to perfume his detestable decision by staging an impromptu remembrance ceremony before a mere 100 people in Olympic Village before the games. That only dramatized the contrast between his phony distraction, and the 65,000 people in the Olympic stadium and the 1 billion television viewers around the world whom he kept from witnessing a bona fide commemoration.
Rogge, however, did not have everything going his way. To his great credit, NBC anchor Bob Costas told his audience when the Israeli team marched into the stadium that this was the moment and the place where the slain Israelis should have been officially remembered - a fitting slap at Rogge.
Beyond the stadium, there also were impromptu demonstrations in London to prevent remembrance from being shut out of these Olympics. About 20,000 people demonstrated against Rogge in various venues, including Trafalgar Square.
Daniel Taub, the Israeli ambassador in London, summed up the general feeling: "Less than three decades after the Shoah (Holocaust), we witnessed the murder of Jews, as Jews, on German soil. It's a tragedy we have to remember, particularly in a week when we saw terrorism against Israel strike again in Bulgaria." Indeed, the five Israelis killed at a Bulgarian seaside resort were but the latest additions to a lengthening list of Jewish and Israeli terrorism victims that began to go global with the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Rogge will forever remain tarred for trying to erase this history.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers