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April 25, 2023 10:20 am

Media Omit Terrorism From Munich Olympic Massacre

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avatar by Chaim Lax


Members of the bereaved Israeli families arrive at the memorial service for the Munich massacre victims at Lod Airport in 1972. Photo: Eldan David/Israeli Government Press Office via

Following a concerted campaign by relatives of the slain Israeli athletes, the German Interior Ministry announced that it had convened an international commission of experts to analyze the events surrounding the Munich Massacre.

Some mainstream news organizations, however, softened the language in their coverage, effectively downplaying the terrorist nature of the atrocity and those responsible for committing it.

Following the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics by members of the Black September terror organization, it became widely known as the “Munich Massacre” in both Israeli circles and the international arena.

In articles published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary in 2022, the BBC, NPR, France 24, and DW News all referred to it as a “massacre.”

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This makes it all the more glaring that the Associated Press (AP), The New York Times, and Reuters all chose to refer to the incident not as a terror attack or a massacre, but simply an “attack” in their recent reports on the German government announcement, effectively downplaying the extent of the atrocity.

Media Turns Terrorists Into “Militants”

The AP and Reuters also avoided using the term “terrorist” when referring to the members of the Black September terror group responsible for the massacre.

Instead, the AP referred to them variously as “Palestinian militants,” “captors,” “attackers,” and “assailants,” while Reuters referred to them as “gunmen.”

The New York Times did use the term “terrorists,” but only once near the end of its story, mainly referring to Black September as “Palestinian militants.”

The media’s refusal to use the term “terrorist” is all the more blatant given the German Interior Ministry’s purposeful usage of the term in its English-language press release.

The New York Times and Reuters also appeared to obscure the nature of what actually occurred during the Munich Massacre.

As noted by the AP, the terrorists initially killed two Israeli athletes, taking nine others hostage. Then, while attempting to escape via helicopter with the remaining hostages, a gunfight broke out between the German police and the terrorists. During the gunfight, the terrorists threw a grenade at one of the groups of Israeli athletes while shooting the other group to death at point-blank range.

Reuters, however, claimed that the athletes simply “died after a stand-off,” while The New York Times described their deaths as the result of a “bloody shootout.”

In neither case were readers informed that the athletes were killed cold-bloodedly at the hands of terrorists, leaving the impression that they may have been killed in the crossfire between the German police and Black September.

Fifty years after the events in question, the media has a duty to provide readers with a proper and factually correct account of the Munich Massacre.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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