LONDON (EJP)---Last-minute calls erupted from across the international political spectrum in the run-up to Friday’s Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, as the Zionist Federation UK echoed Munich widows’ calls for a impromptu Minute for Munich in lieu of an official tribute.
The pro-Israel organisation called on the global community to stage its own minute of silence at 11 am wherever they are, as its own memorial service at the Israeli Embassy in London will simultaneously be broadcast in live streaming.
Whilst calls to the unyielding International Olympics Committee (IOC) have gained momentum from myriad sources, one notable objector arose in the form of the Palestinian Authority, who thanked the IOC for refusing to hold a minute of silence to mark the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli Olympians by Palestinian terror group Black September at the 1972 Munich Games.
In a letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge following his repeated vetoes of memorial motions, Palestinian Football Federation head Jibril Rajoub claimed that any such commemoration would evoke “racism between peoples”.
A former PA security commander, Rajoub wrote: “Sport is a bridge for love, connection and relaying peace between peoples. It should not be a factor for separation and spreading racism between peoples”.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon slammed the use of the term “racist” by the Palestinian official, insisting that the murder of the Olympians on account of their nationality was the racist act.
“Now, more than ever, there needs to be a minute silence, not just to honour the eleven slain Israeli athletes but also to demonstrate opposition to those who laud murderers as heroes and call on others to follow suit,” he said.
Friday’s unofficial silence, whilst not supported by the IOC, has received the backing of high-profile political figure, including (British lower parliamentary chamber) House of Commons Speaker Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP, who said: “I am pleased to send my support for the worldwide 1 minute of silence taking place on 27 July for the eleven victims of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games massacre. I also wish to pay tribute to those who campaign so tirelessly for this terrible event to be commemorated.”
The campaign was instigated by a viral petition launched by the widows of Munich victims. In response to their rebuffed calls for an official memorial, two widows called for a guerrilla silence to be held by attendees of Friday’s opening ceremony.
“If you believe that the 11 murdered athletes must be mentioned, stand for a spontaneous minute when the IOC president begins to speak,” said Ilana Romano, wife of Yossef Romano, a weightlifter who was murdered in the 1972 attack.
Invoking the initiative of NBC sports commentator Bob Costas who has vowed to stage his own on-air minute of silence, she called on fellow broadcasters to “silence your microphones for a minute in memory of our loved ones and to condemn terrorism”.
Fellow widow Ankie Spitzer added that “even if one person stands” in protest during Rogge’s ceremonial speech, “we’ll feel we already made progress”. Insisting their aims were not to hijack the positive spirit of the Games, she said; “We just expect the audience, if they support us, to stand.”
Members of the US House of Representatives announced Wednesday they would be holding a minute’s silence of their own during debate sessions on Friday, as well as members making a series on one-minute speeches in honour of the victims.
Republican congressman Nita Lowey is behind the initiative, having also sponsored a bill to lobby the IOC to hold a commemorative silence at the Games.
“On Friday, millions of people around the world will tune in to the Olympics opening ceremony. A minute of silence would be a reminder that we must be constantly vigilant against prejudice, hate and intolerance, and it would pay tribute to the Munich 11 and their families,” Lowey said.
Last month, 100 Australian parliamentarians stood in spontaneous silence to honour the Munich victims, following a vote in a favour of a resolution supporting the memorial.
The Italian Chamber of Deputies also held a minute of silence on Wednesday in memory of the 11 slain athletes, following a request by MP Fiamma Nirenstein, vice president of the chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee and chairwoman of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians.
“The minute of silence held by the whole assembly; the resolution jointly approved by the Culture and Sport Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee, calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to preserve the memory of the Israeli victims; and the letter to the President of the IOC signed by over 150 Italian MPs from all parties – are all meant to rectify the mistake made by the IOC when it denied, for the umpteenth time, a minute of silence at the opening ceremony of the London Games this Friday,” she said.
World leaders making global appeals to Rogge have included Hillary Clinton, who the US State Department confirmed Wednesday had called on the IOC head to hold an “appropriate memorial event” in London. The IOC has insisted it will hold its official memorial in Germany on the 40th anniversary of the September attacks. US President Barack Obama and London Mayor Boris Johnson have also spoken out in favour of an official commemoration.
The Canadian House of Commons last month supplied the first universal political backing for the memorial, when MPs voted unanimously in support of a bill lobbying for a minute of silence. Pro-Israel Canadian Liberal MP heralded the achievement, declaring:
“I am delighted that the Canadian parliament is the first to unanimously support this call. I am pleased that all parties have worked together in common cause and hope the IOC will accede to our request.”