Menu JTA Search

Families want retailers not to sell Olympic massacre planner’s book

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (JTA) — Families of terrorist victims are pressuring American booksellers not to sell a controversial volume written by the mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. The issue has touched off debate between the retailers, who cite their First Amendment right to publish the book, and the families, who believe an accused criminal should not be given the chance to make money off his story. Abu Daoud, also known as Mohammed Oudeh, admits in the book “Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich” that he planned the hostage-taking at the Munich Olympics, which led to the murder of 11 Israeli athletes. One of those killed was David Berger, a dual American-Israeli citizen from Cleveland who was a member of the Israeli Olympic weightlifting team. Germany has issued a warrant for Abu Daoud’s arrest. In June, Israel barred him from entering the West Bank, where he had been living for the past three years. Abu Daoud had been in Jordan, but his current whereabouts are unknown. The book was published earlier this year in France and had been slated for release this summer by Arcade Publishing, but a publication date has not been officially set. Following word of plans to release the book in the United States, the families of Americans killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks protested to the publisher and the nation’s leading book retailers. The Zionist Organization of America and former Ohio Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, who now serves as chairman of the Consumer Federation of America, also raised objections. In a letter sent to the heads of Borders Group, Barnes & Noble, and Crown Books Corporation, Metzenbaum, who had been a close friend of Berger, said the fact that Abu Daoud is walking free “is very painful to me.” “The idea that the terrorist stands to profit from the sale of a book in which he boasts about his role in the murder is all the more painful,” he wrote. In a letter to Jonathan Bulkeley, CEO of, Stephen Flatow, whose daughter, Alisa, was killed in a 1995 suicide bombing attack in Israel, wrote: “Having myself experience the tragic loss of a child to terrorists, I can well imagine the pain it will cause Dr. and Mrs. Berger to go to your Web site and see that you are selling a book in which the killer of their son boasts of the murder.” Arcade Publishing, based in New York, said it would look into the matter but a representative did not return phone calls seeking comment. Borders Group spokeswoman Ann Binkley said, however, she was told by the publisher that no publication date has been set, adding, “They don’t know when — if ever — it will come out.” She also said if the book is published, Borders would carry “a limited number of copies” in some stores. Refusing to sell the book would be “censorship,” she said. “One of our policies has always been that we respect our customers as intelligent individuals and we give them the right to choose what they buy, what they listen to and what they read,” Binkley said. Lizzie Allen, a spokeswoman for, said the book presents a “tough issue” but “basically our policy and our commitment is to the First Amendment and free speech and we will carry any book that is published as long as it is not illegal or banned.” At the same time, she said, “We will never promote a book like that and that book will be very difficult to find.” Barnes & Noble did not return phone calls seeking comment, but in a letter responding to Flatow, Bulkeley of, wrote: “The guiding principle we use to determine what we carry is simple: we carry almost everything published, and we allow our customers to decide what to buy and read. “To restrict or monitor that choice would mean deciding for them,” he added. Responding to the letter in an interview, Flatow said, “It’s certainly a form letter blowing me off. He didn’t get the point of my letter at all.” Those who have raised objections to the potential sale of Abu Daoud’s book stress that the issue should not be considered a matter of free speech. “I am not questioning your legal right to carry Abu Daoud’s book,” Metzenbaum wrote in his letter, noting that state laws prohibiting killers from profiting from books or movies about their crimes do not necessarily apply to crimes committed overseas. “But surely the spirit of such laws mandates that you refrain from selling such a book, and I appeal to your sense of moral judgment,” he wrote. Morton Klein, president of the ZOA, said booksellers make decisions all the time about which books are suitable for sale. Klein urged that Abu Daoud’s book be rejected on moral grounds. “If these book companies help killers of Americans make money from books,” he said, “then we Americans should do what we can to make sure these book companies don’t make money from us.”