No Olympic memorial for Munich massacre victims
By Ray Hanania
Sunday July 29, 2012 Saudi Gazette Newspaper — In early September 1972, two weeks into the 20th Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, eight heavily armed Palestinians broke into the Olympic Village and took hostage 11 athletes and coaches of the Israeli Olympic team.
The attackers, members of Black September, demanded the release of 234 Palestinians who were being held in Israeli prisons. They named the operation after two Palestinian Christian villages, Ikrit and Biram, that had been destroyed by Israeli forces between 1948 and 1951. They were only two of the more than 400 Palestinian villages that Israel destroyed after declaring itself a nation.
As the world watched, the Palestinians negotiated through the German police, but the situation quickly deteriorated. Five of the hijackers and all of the Israeli team were killed when the German police conducted a rescue operation. Three Palestinians were taken prisoner but were later released in response to the Lufthansa Flight 181 airline hijacking.
Israel responded to the killings by expanding its Mossad program to target and kill Palestinian activists around the world. Several innocent Palestinians and Arab civilians were murdered by Israeli hit squads, including the murder of Moroccan waiter Ahmed Bouchiki on July 21, 1973 in Lillehammer, Norway.
This summer marks the 40thAnniversary of the Olympic massacre but the 64th Anniversary of the Arab-Israeli conflict in which Palestinians and Israelis have been killed in retribution attacks by both sides.
Pro-Israeli activists have been campaigning for years to have the Summer Olympics memorialize the murdered Israeli athletes, and pushed to have a “moment of silence” at the opening ceremonies of this year’s games.
But the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been resolved. Israel has killed as many if not more Arab civilians as Arabs and Palestinians have killed Israelis. To lift this one event out of the context of the murderous policies of extremists on both sides, Arab and Israeli, would be prejudicial and unfair.
That is why I am against this moment of silence, a memorial ceremony that can only take place once peace is achieved. A memorial for the dead Israeli athletes that should only take place when memorials for Arabs and Palestinians murdered by Israelis are also marked at international commemorations.
Israel’s international allies have pushed for the commemoration while at the same time rejecting similar commemorations recognizing Israeli atrocities.
You can make a list of Israelis murdered by Palestinians and Arabs and put it next to a list of Palestinians and Arabs murdered by Israelis.
The push is political. It’s intended to be more of a political slap in the face of Palestinian rights than an effort to commemorate the innocent Israeli athletes who were victims of a conflict that continues till this day.
Fortunately, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge resisted the pressure, arguing that a memorial to such a dark tragedy should not be allowed to overshadow the message of peace that the spirit of the Olympics are intended to promote.
Rogge explained his decision, saying, “We feel the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident.” Instead, Rogge participated in an event marking the murders at a memorial in London on July 23.
Asking the world to pause to honor only the 11 murdered Israeli athletes would be an unprincipled insult to the thousands of Palestinians and Arabs who have been murdered by an unrepentant Israeli government and their political allies.
If there ever is an international moment to recognize the victims of the Munich massacre, it should be in conjunction with a moment of silence recognizing the Arabs and Palestinians who have died at the hands of Israeli assassins and Mossad death squads.
But we know that will not happen. The United States has used its position in the United Nations Security Council at every instance to block all efforts to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes and terrorist acts. Why should the Arabs and Palestinians be held to a different standard? Let there be no doubt that in my mind the Munich massacre was a horrendous act of terrorism. The 11 dead athletes were innocent victims who were murdered.
But there are as many or more Arabs and Palestinians who have been murdered by an unrepentant Israel.
Allowing Israeli atrocities to escape public condemnation is an injustice that fairness should not permit. And many nations including the Arab countries, have argued against a one-sided gesture to honor only Israel’s victims of the 64-year-long Arab-Israeli conflict.
The only true memorial can come when Israel and the Palestinians end the 1948 war and agree on a final peace accord that results in justice for both sides. That can come either through the sharing of the land with one state for both Palestinians and Israelis, or through the increasingly unlikely possibility of a two-state solution, one Israel and one Palestine.
Until today, Israel has refused to end its policy of annexing Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank and Jerusalem to build illegal settlements exclusively for Jewish residents.
The murder of the Israeli athletes in 1972 was a crime. But so have been the murders of thousands of Palestinians and Arabs by Israel. The greater crime is to fail to recognize that this conflict has not ended and to refuse to embrace justice.
— Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and radio talk show host. Reach him at www.RadioChicagoland.com
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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