WASHINGTON (JTA) – Members of the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a moment of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
“We’re going to give one-minute speeches on the House floor and devote a substantial moment of that to silence on Thursday,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a conference call with the media on Wednesday. Following that, he and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) will lead a group of lawmakers to the Capital grounds for another moment of silence.
Engel and Lowey are cosponsors of a bill calling on the International Olympic Committee to hold a moment of silence for the Israelis during Friday evening’s opening ceremonies of the London Games. The bill unanimously passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but a vote has yet to be scheduled by the full body. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a similar resolution.
“On Friday, millions of people around the world will tune in to the Olympics opening ceremony,” Lowey said. “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.”
President Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, along with several governments around the world, have joined the call for a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies, but the IOC has rejected the request.
“For them not to do a moment of silence, that’s being political because frankly they’re afraid of offending some of the Arab nations," Engel said, adding later that "If you have this fiction of fraternal bonds and commonality of feeling, then it’s appropriate for the IOC to act without any politics whatsoever. The only reason they haven’t done this in 40 years is because it’s Israeli athletes, and that makes it even more disgraceful.”
Rep. Ted Deutsch (D-Fla.) added on the call, “There is still time for the world to honor these athletes and to unite against terrorism. We can’t allow the 40th anniversary of their murder to pass by, and we can’t allow it to be overshadowed by geopolitics.”
In the past, Olympics officials have attended private Israeli or Jewish ceremonies marking the tragedy, but other than the day after the murders themselves, the IOC has not held a commemoration during the Games for the Munich victims. There was a brief mention of the killings at the close of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when then-IOC head Juan Antonio Samaranch called for a moment of silence for the victims of a bombing during those Games as well as the slain Israelis.