The widow of the one of the 11 Israel victims of a terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Games earned a standing ovation at a London Jewish memorial to mark the 40th anniversary of the incident, as she accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of “discriminating” against them “because they are Israelis and Jews”.
Ankie Spitzer addressed the unofficial memorial Monday, which was organised by the London Jewish community in conjunction with the Israeli Embassy in London, after IOC president Jacques Rogge rejected multiple global appeals for the organisation to stage its own official commemoration as part of the programme at this summer’s London Games.
Spitzer had led an unsuccessful petition to hold a minute’s silence to honour the victims of the terrorist attack by the Palestinian Black September group. Addressing a crowd of 600 dignitaries including Rogge, London Mayor Boris Johnson and Prime Minister David Cameron at London’s Guildhall, Spitzer passionately declared: “Shame on you IOC because you have forsaken the 11 members of your Olympic family, you are discriminating against them only because they are Israelis and Jews.”
The global campaign failed despite having receive 111,000 signatures from over 100 countries, as well as the support of the Australian and Canadian parliaments and US President Barack Obama.
The widow of slain Israeli fencing coach Andre Spitzer continued to rail against the IOC, insisting it is “(so) interested in power, money and politics they have forgotten what they are supposed to promote: peace, brotherhood and fair play”, adding that “the more the Olympics Committee entrenches itself in its refusal the more we will struggle” for official commemoration of the victims.
Also addressing the attendees, fellow widow Ilana Romano told Rogge he had “submitted to terrorism”. “You will be written down on the pages of history as a former athlete who became president who violated the Olympic charter that calls for brotherhood, friendship and peace,” she added to another ovation.
British Prime Minister David Cameron similarly captured the mood of the evening, as he declared “it is right that we should stop and remember the 11 Israeli athletes who so tragically lost their lives when those valued came under attack in Munich 40 years ago”.
Describing the incident as “a truly shocking act of evil”, he added it was “a crime against the Jewish people. A crime against humanity. A crime the world must never forget”. Further paying tribute to the Israeli victims of last month’s terrorist attack in Bulgaria, he spoke of his pride that London was able to host a diverse Olympics including a strong Israeli delegation, who themselves entered the venue to rousing applause.
Romano, wife of slain Israeli weightlifter Yossef Romano, commented afterwards: “We were touched by the prime minister’s speech. He gave us hope that our voices will be heard.”
Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, who represented the Israeli government at the Opening Ceremony of the London Games on July 27 further invoked the IOC’s much-debated refusal to hold a minute’s silence as part of the high-profile ceremony. Describing how she had paid tribute to the Munich victims with her own private moment of silence during the official ceremony, she added:
“I was not alone. Millions, all over the world, lovers of sport and lovers of humanity, were with me in silent awe. In my silence, I spoke for them. In deafening silence, we unite with the memory of our eleven athletes.”
Livnat also aligned the Munich atrocities with the Bulgaria bombing, as well as Nazi concentration camps, insisting: “It is the murder of Jews simply because they are Jews. Jewish athletes, Jewish tourist, and just plain Jews.”
However, she added, the creation of a Jewish State in the aftermath of the Holocaust meant Jewish victims always had a state to hold “murderers accountable and insist(ed) on justice”, concluding that “in the face of terror, it is never time to be silent”.
Rogge responded by speaking of a collective sense of duty to “those innocent victims and to history to make sure the lessons of 1972 are never forgotten”, adding that “we are here to speak with one voice against terrorism”. However, he declined to comment on the numerous references to the IOC’s culpability in refusing to stage the memorial itself.
Romano insisted they weren’t surprised by Rogge’s silence on the issue of their unheralded calls for an official minute’s silence, saying after the ceremony:
“What could he say? It was all old. He didn’t say anything new to me. Maybe I said something new to him. I have been waiting for a long time to tell him what I thought. This time we took the gloves off. Up to now I was always diplomatic.”
The event featured Jewish actor Chaim Topol as Master of Ceremonies and singer David D’or. It also included a candle-lighting ceremony in memory of the 11 murdered Israeli coaches and athletes.