Romney Backs Olympics Moment of Silence

Calls for Ceremony to Honor Israeli Athletes Slain in Munich

By Reuters

Published July 23, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, about to visit the London Olympics and Israel, said for the first time on Monday that he supports an official minute of silence at Friday’s opening ceremony for the Games to honor Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Mitt Romney
getty images
Mitt Romney

Romney’s move broke years of his own silence on the issue, including his time leading the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. During those Games, survivors of the slain Israelis called on the International Olympic Committee to observe a moment of silence to mark what was the 30th anniversary of the deaths in Munich. The IOC declined.

Now, with Romney in a heated campaign against Democratic President Barack Obama and heading to Europe and Israel for a week on an international stage, the Republican former Massachusetts governor is joining those calls.

“Governor Romney supports the moment of silence in remembrance of the Israeli athletes killed in the Munich Olympic Games,” Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, told Reuters in an email on Monday.

Romney’s statement seems to align him with Obama and officials in several other countries who have urged the IOC to do more to remember the massacre in Munich, where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and a local police officer were killed after Palestinian gunmen sneaked into the Olympic village and demanded the release of hundreds of prisoners held in Israel.

“We absolutely support the campaign for a moment of silence at the Olympics to honor the Israeli athletes killed in Munich,” Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama, said in a statement last week.

At the time, Romney’s position was less clear. Saul told Yahoo News on Thursday that Romney had not taken a public stance on the matter.

The IOC, which oversees the Olympics, has said the opening ceremony is not appropriate for such a moment of silence.

“We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said at a news conference last week.

At another news conference on Monday, Rogge apparently tried to defuse the issue by declaring a minute’s silence during the new conference itself.

“I could not speak here about peace and sport without reminding what happened 40 years ago,” he said.

Rogge disputed the notion that his actions were aimed at blunting demands for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony. “The intention was not to calm anyone,” he said.

FEARS OF ARAB BOYCOTT?

Ankie Spitzer, widow of one of the Israeli athletes killed in Munich and a long-time campaigner for an official Olympic moment of silence, told Reuters that two days ago, one of Rogge’s top deputies said the IOC was “afraid of an Arab boycott” if an official period of silence were ordered to commemorate the Munich incident.

ESPN.com reported that confidential IOC minutes from a meeting before the 2000 Sydney Olympics suggested that the organization had received “threatening letters on the issue from several different Arab Olympic committees.”

The IOC did not respond to an e-mail requesting further comment.

Deborah Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish history at Emory University in Atlanta, said the IOC’s refusal to call for a minute of silence was “pure and simple unabashed antisemitism,” although she said it was prejudice of a “mild” - rather than violent - nature.

She said Romney might have had considerably more influence on the IOC’s handling of the issue had he spoken out in favor of a moment of silence when he led the Salt Lake Olympic Committee 10 years ago.

On the 30th anniversary of the Munich killings “he did not speak out. … He did nothing,” Lipstadt said.

“Mitt Romney’s failure to do that was failure of character,” added Lipstadt, who said she supports Obama but is not connected to his campaign.

LOBBYING FOR RECOGNITION

Lipstadt, one of America’s most eminent historians on the Holocaust, said the IOC has used an opening ceremony to memorialize other athletes who died tragically.

She noted that at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, organizers arranged a moment of silence for a Georgian luger who had died in a training accident just before the Games.

“The athletes who were murdered (in Munich) were from Israel and were Jews. … The only conclusion one can draw is that Jewish blood is cheap, too cheap to risk upsetting a bloc of Arab nations and other countries that oppose Israel and its policies,” Lipstadt wrote in an article.

This year, those pushing for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony recruited an array of political heavyweights to publicly press the IOC on the issue.

The American Jewish Committee said that resolutions supporting the minute of silence have been approved by the U.S. Senate, the Canadian and Australian parliaments and Germany’s Bundestag. Also, 140 members of Italy’s parliament have supported the campaign.

In lieu of an official moment of silence at Friday’s opening ceremony in London, which Romney is scheduled to attend, British Jewish groups are organizing a private commemorative event at the Guildhall, a historical London building.

The Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland has called for a more widespread moment of silence at 11 a.m. (0600 EDT) on Friday.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.