Pressure is mounting on the International Olympic Committee to mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre with a minute of silence at this month’s games in London.
Olympic organizers have steadfastly refused to allow any remembrance of the 1972 horror in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed. Many believe that is for fear of offending Arab and Islamic nations.
But with the London games due to start in eight days, leading philanthropist and businessman Stanley Tate is making an international push to have the massacre remembered in a fitting way.
Tate, one of the country’s most prominent Jewish Republicans, is placing ads in U.S. and European newspapers over the next week pressing for the remembrance. The first appeared in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.
The ad will appear in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and newspapers in Los Angeles, as well as in the London Times, among others. While Tate won’t disclose
how much his campaign is costing him, he did say, “one newspaper told me, ‘Don’t send money — we’re publishing for free.’ Today’s Wall Street Journal ad has already generated thousands of people to contact the OIC, and we are just starting.”
Tate’s backing is sure to elevate the issue in the public eye just days before the games begin. In the 1990s, he served as chairman of the Resolution Trust Corp., the government agency that managed banks’ assets in the wake of the savings and loan crisis. Tate is also well-known for starting Florida’s prepaid college tuition program, and is the Miami-Dade co-chair of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
“It wouldn’t cost anything and could be quickly organized,” Tate tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “I am hoping for a couple of hundred thousand emails to be sent to the Olympic organizers asking for one minute’s silence.”
He says a letter to the United States Olympic Committee went unanswered and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said a plaque in Munich was a sufficient memorial.
“But the fact is that there is a lot of pressure from countries who have no love for Israel and wouldn’t care if it was 11 or 1,100 who were killed,” he says.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and a backer of Tate’s plan wrote to the IOC in May asking for the memory of the Israelis to be respected.
“Is one minute too much for the IOC to spend?” she asked after speaking with Tate.
The group is supporting the efforts of Ankie Spitzer, the widow of one of the 11 victims. She has raised a 94,000-signature petition calling for a minute’s silence at the July 27 opening ceremony.
“I am asking for one minute of silence for the memory of the eleven Israeli athletes, coaches, and referees murdered at the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich,” she said in calling for more signatories. “Just one minute — at the 2012 London Summer Olympics and at every Olympic Games, to promote peace.”
“These men were sons, fathers, uncles, brothers, friends, teammates, athletes. They came to Munich in 1972 to play as athletes in the Olympics; they came in peace and went home in coffins, killed in the Olympic Village and during hostage negotiations,” added Spitzer, whose husband, Andrei, was a coach to the Israeli fencing team.
“The families of the Munich 11 have worked for four decades to obtain recognition of the Munich massacre from the International Olympic Committee,” added Spitzer. “We have requested a minute of silence during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics starting with the ’76 Montreal Games. Repeatedly, these requests have been turned down.
“The 11 murdered athletes were members of the Olympic family; we feel they should be remembered within the framework of the Olympic Games.”
Spitzer said a minute’s silence is “a fitting tribute for athletes who lost their lives on the Olympic stage. Silence contains no statements, assumptions, or beliefs and requires no understanding of language to interpret.”
The Anti-Defamation League has also joined the clamor for the one-minute silence. ADL National Director Abe Foxman wrote to IOC President Jacques Rogge in May: “"Forty years has been too long to wait for an official tribute to those killed at Munich.”
Others to support the move include sportscaster Bob Costas; the parliaments of Germany, Canada, and Australia; and individual lawmakers in many countries. Costas, who will be reporting on the Games for NBC, told the Hollywood Reporter, “I intend to note that the IOC denied the request. Many people find that denial more than puzzling, but insensitive.”
The 11 athletes were murdered on Sept. 5 and 6 in 1972 after eight track-suited members of the Palestinian Black September terrorist group infiltrated the Olympic village and took them hostage. A German police officer was also killed.
The terrorists were demanding the release of more than 200 Palestinians held in Israel and members of the radical German Red Army Faction.
Five of the assassins were killed during an unsuccessful rescue operation. The other three were captured and imprisoned but released by West German authorities just six weeks later after Black September hijacked a Lufthansa airplane.
One of the gunmen, Jamal al-Gashey, is still believed to be alive. During a 1999 interview, al-Gashey said, “I'm proud of what I did at Munich because it helped the Palestinian cause enormously . . . before Munich, the world had no idea about our struggle, but on that day, the name of Palestine was repeated all around the world."
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