Antisemitism Scholar Decries ‘Commemoration Discrimination’ on 43rd Anniversary of Munich Massacre
On the 43rd anniversary of the Munich massacre, perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists against Israeli athletes during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Germany, a well-known antisemitism scholar says the world’s reaction over the years has amounted to antisemitism.
In an interview with The Algemeiner on Sunday, Manfred Gerstenfeld, author of the recently published book, The War of a Million Cuts: The Struggle against the Deligitimization of Israel and the Jews, and the Growth of New Anti-Semitism, called the lack of ceremony surrounding the mass murder “commemoration discrimination.”
“One can hardly imagine that if participants in the Olympics from a European or Arab country had been killed during the games, there would not have been official commemorations at subsequent games,” said Gerstenfeld, who was born in Austria, raised in Holland and moved to Israel in 1968. “The fact that the murdered Israeli athletes have not been officially commemorated seems indicative of double standards. It is one of many contemporary phenomena where the double standards that characterize antisemitism manifest themselves.”
Gerstenfeld, a former steering committee chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, explained what he considers to be a difference between the Islamic terrorists who committed the slaughter in Munich and those of today.
The murderers of the Israeli athletes were Palestinians who had come from outside Europe. Similarly, the bombing of the Copernic synagogue in Paris in 1980, where four people killed and more than 40 were wounded, was most probably carried out by a Muslim who came from outside Europe. The same goes for the attack at the Goldenberg restaurant in Paris in 1982, during which six people were killed and more than 20 wounded.
In the 21st century, however, the Islamic killers of Jews have all been Muslims living in Europe. That was the case with the murderer of Sebastien Sellam in Paris in 2003; the torturers to death of Ilan Halimi in France in 2006; Mohammed Merah, who killed four Jews in Toulouse in 2012; the main suspect in the killing of four people outside the Jewish Museum in Brussels in 2014; those behind the murder of four Jews at the Kosher supermarket in Paris this year; and the murderer of the Jewish guard at the Copenhagen synagogue a few weeks later.
Prior to the 1972 Olympics, the last time the Germans had hosted the international sports fest was in 1936, when the Nazis were in power. In an attempt to erase the awful connotations of the Third Reich, the West German government decided to give what would turn out to be an unfortunate title to the happening — “The Happy Games.”
The “Happy Games” took place August 26-September 10.
At 4:30 a.m. on September 5, while competitors were asleep, eight heavily armed members of the PLO’s Black September faction scaled the fence surrounding the Olympic Village, and stole the keys to the apartments housing the Israeli team.
In a surprise attack, the terrorists stormed into the Israeli quarters and took all the athletes and their coaches hostage, immediately murdering two of them, who put up a fight. Eighteen hours later, they transferred the rest of the hostages by helicopter to a military airport, where they were going to board a plane to an Arab country. It was then that the Germans carried out a failed rescue mission, during which four of the hostages were shot and then blown up by a grenade that one of the terrorists threw into the helicopter. The five remaining hostages were then gunned down with assault rifles.
In the show-down with German authorities, most of the terrorists were killed. The three who survived were arrested, but ended up being released a few weeks later in a swap involving a hijacked Lufthansa jet. (On October 29, two men hijacked a plane en route from Beirut to Ankara, and demanded that Palestinian prisoners held in Germany be released in exchange for the hostages on the flight.)
Though the Germans initially refused the deal, they ended up giving in, and the three terrorists who had taken part in the massacre in Munich were set free.
As a result of the massacre, the “Happy Games” were suspended for 24 hours. As soon as the whole thing was over, and the Israelis were already dead, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Avery Brundage conducted a short memorial service at the stadium. In his speech, he paid minor tribute to the Israeli athletes who had just been killed, and made a more general comment about the nature of the Olympics.
“Every civilized person recoils in horror at the barbarous criminal intrusion of terrorists into the peaceful Olympic precincts,” he said. “We mourn our Israeli friends, victims of this brutal assault. The Olympic flag and the flags of all the world fly at half mast. Sadly, in this imperfect world, the greater and more important the Olympic Games become, the more they are open to commercial, political and now criminal pressure. The Games of the 20th Olympiad have been subjected to two savage attacks. We lost the Rhodesian battle against naked political blackmail. We have only the strength of a great ideal. I am sure the public will agree that we cannot allow a handful of terrorists to destroy this nucleus of international cooperation and goodwill we have in the Olympic movement. The Games must go on and we must continue our efforts to keep them clear, pure and honest and try to extend sportsmanship of the athletic field to other areas. We declare today a day of mourning and will continue all the events one day later than scheduled.”
The Israeli government endorsed Brundage’s decision to go on with the competitions as scheduled.
Four years later, the Summer Olympics took place in Montreal. The only reminder of the massacre was a black ribbon on the Israeli flag carried by the Israeli team as it marched into the stadium.
Since that time, there have been repeated requests to the IOC, mainly on the part of families of the victims, to hold a memorial service at the games.
Ahead of the 40th anniversary of the massacre, in 2012, the governments of the U.S., Canada, Germany and Israel came out in favor of holding a moment of silence at the London Olympics that year. But the president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge of Belgium, was adamantly against it. So, too, was Alex Gilady, the Israeli member of the Committee, who argued that the commemoration could make other athletes ill at ease.