(Editor’s update: Adds IOC comment)
(CNSNews.com) – Forty years after Palestinian terrorists killed Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich, the International Olympic Committee is being urged – again – to honor the dead with a moment of silence during the opening of the London 2012 Games.
According to the families of the victims of the 1972 atrocity, the IOC has turned down all previous requests for a formal commemoration to be held during an Olympic Games, in front of athletes, supporters and television viewers from around the world.
In a letter sent this week, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon asked IOC President Jacques Rogge to fulfill the long-held wishes of families of the 11 Israelis killed – “to send a clear message that we must not forget the terrible events of Munich 40 years ago so they will not be repeated.”
“Throughout those dark days during the Olympics 40 years ago, the terrorists didn’t just target Israelis; they tried to pierce the very spirit and fraternity upon which the Olympic Games are built,” he wrote.
Ayalon expressed the Israeli government’s support for a petition started by the widows of two of the murdered men, Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, calling for the minute of silence when the 2012 Games begin in London on July 27.
This year’s event will be the tenth summer Olympics since Munich; nine previous opportunities to mark the event at the families’ request have come and gone.
“The families of the Munich 11 have worked for four decades to obtain recognition of the Munich massacre from the International Olympic Committee,” Spitzer wrote in the petition, which more than 6,500 people have signed it since it was started 12 days ago.
Spitzer and Romano thanked Ayalon for supporting their call.
“His backing, on behalf of the State of Israel, gives us hope and honors the memory of the athletes who were sent to represent the State.”
In response to queries, IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said she was not aware of Ayalon’s letter having yet been received, but that the Olympic governing body “has paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions and will continue to do so.”
In London, Rogge is expected to attend an event in memory of the victims hosted by Israel’s Olympic committee.
“The memory of the victims is not fading away,” she said. “One thing is certain: we will never forget.”
“The tragedy was a defining moment in many ways, not least of all on the security front,” Moreau said. “Since then, the IOC has put security on the top of its agenda, relying of course on the host city government to put in place measures in the hope of avoiding such a tragedy in the future.
“This event also strengthened the determination of the Olympic Movement to contribute more than ever to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit.”
Moreau listed ways in which the Munich killings had been marked and the victims honored in past years, including the presence of the IOC president at Israeli- or German-hosted events, and during IOC meetings.
The only formal commemoration at an Olympic venue during the Games, however, took place in the Munich Olympic stadium on the day after the attacks.
‘Allah protect you’
The Munich attack was carried out by Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists operating under the name of “Black September.”
On September 5, 1972, eight heavily-armed gunmen stormed the Israeli team’s apartment in the German city, killing an athlete and a coach in the process. They took nine others hostage, and demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir release 234 Arab prisoners in Israeli jails and two German terrorist leaders imprisoned in Frankfurt. They also wanted safe passage out of Germany.
Nine more Israelis and a German police officer died in an abortive attempt to rescue the hostages after a 20-hour standoff. Five PLO terrorists also died during the rescue effort.
Among the dead was 28-year-old Cleveland-born weightlifter David Marc Berger, an American citizen and former U.S. national youth middleweight weightlifting champion.
In memoirs published in 1999, Mohammed Oudeh (also known as Abu Daoud), a member of the Palestine National Council, admitted that he planned the operation and that PLO chairman Yasser Arafat had been briefed beforehand.
He wrote that Arafat and two other men saw him off on the mission with the words, “Allah protect you, Abu Daoud.” (The PLO had long denied direct links to Black September.)
Oudeh offered no apology, blaming German police and Meir for the Israelis’ deaths.
After the book was published German prosecutors issued an international warrant for Oudeh’s arrest, but he escaped justice and died in Syria in July 2010, aged 73.
After his death PLO and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas hailed Oudeh as a hero, describing him as “a wonderful brother, companion, tough and stubborn, [and] relentless fighter.”
The official P.A. newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida called the dead man a “great Fatah fighter and patriot,” whose name had shone “brightly” in Munich in 1972, while Arab press coverage of Oudeh’s funeral near Damascus quoted Fatah officials praising him as a “martyr.”
A month later, Abbas gave a military funeral in Ramallah to another Fatah man believed to have been involved in the Munich planning. Amin Al-Hindi, who later headed Arafat’s General Intelligence Service, died in Amman, Jordan aged 70.
“President Mahmoud Abbas attended the funeral, reciting passages of the Quran in Al-Hindi’s honor,” the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported at the time.
After the Munich killings, Meir’s government ordered agents to hunt down and kill those responsible. At least 12 PLO members were reportedly killed across Europe in the following months.