Friday 27 July 2012

Three minutes of bells, but no time for silence

If you didn't already know it, the Olympic Games are about to begin. They start officially at the opening ceremony tonight and this morning at 8.12, bells all over the country rang out in celebration for three minutes. Although these Games mark the fortieth anniversary of the slaughter of eleven Israeli Olympians at the Munich Games, there will be no minute of silence in their memory. This is nothing less than shameful.

The following guest post by Jonathan Sacerdoti, Director of the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, on Harry's Place injects a much needed shot of sobriety into the Olympics euphoria.

Tomorrow, Big Ben will chime non-stop for three minutes to mark the opening of the Olympic games in London. The opening ceremony will begin with the ringing of the world’s largest ‘harmonically tuned’ bell. People around the country are even being urged to ring a bell of their own (be it a doorbell or a bicycle bell) at precisely 8.12am. Olympic pride, it seems, is something to be noisy about. Yet at 10.30am, at the north end of Trafalgar Square, there will be a group of people who plan to remain completely silent, for just one minute.

Those in the square are part of a huge international effort to have a minute of silence included in the opening ceremony, in memory of 11 Israeli athletes who were brutally murdered by Palestinian terrorists 40 years ago at the Munich Olympics. Their deaths have never been marked in an opening ceremony, despite repeated requests. This year, once again, such requests even from Boris Johnson and Barack Obama have been repeatedly and publicly refused.

The Olympics celebrates the impressive physical capabilities of humankind through those who are the very best in the world at their sports. But it should be an opportunity not just to marvel at our physical potential, but also to reach new ethical and moral highs. Through the idea of the Olympic Truce, where nations put aside their differences to compete as equals, the Olympics should be a beacon of compassion and morality, where politics is not meant to intrude. Those who hijacked the greatest international celebration of sport for their own brutal political aims are the ones who smashed to pieces that which is central to the spirit of the games, with dreadful consequences.

You might wonder why it is so important to mark this 40th anniversary. Haven’t things moved on since 1972? Sadly, it seems, they have not. Just last week Hezbollah terrorists, acting as Iran’s proxy, blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. Within the last few months, terror attacks were attempted against Israeli embassies in Georgia and Bangkok, and the Israeli ambassador to India’s wife was seriously injured in a terrorist attack on her car in Delhi. Just a few weeks ago, Iranian terror plots against Israelis in Kenya and Cyprus were foiled.

The Palestinians appear to show little remorse for killing the Israeli athletes (and with them the spirit of the Olympics). The man who claims that the Munich killings were his idea, Abu Daoud, twice claimed that funds for the terror operation were provided by none other than Mahmoud Abbas, the current Palestinain President (and the man with whom the state of Israel is now expected to negotiate a peace deal). As recently as 2010, the official Palestinian Authority daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, referred to the Olympic massacre as a “shining station”. The planner of the slaughter, Amin Al-Hindi, was described by the newspaper as a “star who sparkled… at the sports stadium in Munich”, and his military funeral was reported to have been attended by both Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The paper reported that “afterwards, the President and those present read the opening sura [of the Quran] for the elevation of his pure soul.”

With the Palestinian Authority apparently unrepentant for the attack, the atrocity’s money-man now their president, and further attacks on Israelis around the world taking place on a regular basis, it seems that international terrorism is alive and kicking in 2012. It comes as little surprise, then, that almost twice as many British soldiers deployed in Afghanistan are involved in providing security at the London Olympics. If this seems shocking, remember that countries like Israel have long been used to needing such security measures at public events.

Terrorism is a huge and real threat not only to Israel, but also to the entire western world. Terrorism is the enemy of everything for which the Olympics stands. If anything, the threat has got worse since the Munich games of 1972. That is precisely why the opening ceremony of the London games should include a clear and unambiguous reminder of the worst ever attack on Olympic values.

Facebook and Twitter are bursting with comments from people who attended the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony, imploring each other not to post photographs, but to “save the surprise”. For those who truly appreciate the values that are central to the Olympics, the best surprise the opening ceremony could provide would be just five and a half seconds of silence for each of the eleven murdered Israeli athletes.

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