A while back I expressed my doubts about whether a moment of silence at the Summer Olympics was worth all the angst being expressed about it by our own community. I felt then as I do now that there are a lot more important things to concern ourselves with than this.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision to not hold a moment of silence on the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacre of 11 Israeli athletes may have been a poor decision – but it was theirs to make and not particularly anti-Semitic. Appeals to reconsider led by Ankie Spitzer, widow of slain Olympic athlete, Andre Spitzer have thus far been unsuccessful.
I recall being just about a lone voice for this perspective. I nevertheless still feel that we ought not make a big deal about something that makes us appear as though we are being paranoid… that the only reason the IOC does not want to hold a moment of silence is because it is for Jews and that had this massacre happened to athletes from any other country there surely would be a moment of silence. I do not happen to believe that.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t admire non-Jews for picking up the cause. I therefore have to admire Bob Costas. From The JewishPress:
One of the best known sportscasters in America may soon make history by defying the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decree that it would not honor the memory of the murdered 1972 Israeli Olympic team, and conducting an on-air memorial of his own.
Bob Costas, famed NBC sportscaster and regular frontline broadcaster of the Olympic games, told The Hollywood Reporter that he would not stand behind the IOC’s “baffling” decision to deny Israel’s request for a moment of silence to acknowledge the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by Palestinian terrorists 40 years ago at the 1972 games in Munich, Germany, and that he would take it upon himself to highlight the injustice during his broadcast of the London games opening ceremonies on July 27.
If officials of the Olympics continue to refuse to honor the victims with a moment of silence, Costas says “I intend to note that the IOC denied the request,” he tells THR. “Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive. [So] Here’s a minute of silence right now.”
Costas intends to take his stand for the slain Olympians as the Israeli delegation enters the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium.
I don’t know how many people will be watching the Olympics via NBC’s broadcast. But I suspect it is among the most watched events on broadcast TV. And the opening ceremonies is the most watched part of it. Bob Costas is not Jewish. But he does represent the American spirit.
Americans are a people who care about their fellow man. When they see a group being slighted, they will stand up and say so… and ‘call out’ those who have done so. This is what Bob Costas has done. My hat is certainly off to him.
This is yet another example of why I love this country so much. They truly are a Medinah Shel Chesed… a country of generous spirit whose credo of tolerance is more than just words.
It seems that in this instance Americans are not alone. 100,000 signatures from all over the country were collected on Change.org supporting that moment of silence. And 140 members of the Italian parliament signed a letter urging the IOC to have a moment of silence. Even the President is on board with this, saying through a spokesman, “We absolutely support the campaign for a minute of silence at the Olympics to honor the Israeli athletes killed in Munich.”
It is being reported that full page ads will be placed in major newspapers across the country urging the IOC to observe that moment of silence. In an unusual of moment of true altruism one of them will be accepting it without charge. And there has been a whopping 1.1 million “likes’ on a Facebook page urging people to stop for a moment of silence on the morning of the opening ceremonies.
While a lot of effort is being spent on this issue that I think could be better spent on more important issues – for example to free Yaakov Ostreicher from a Bolivian prison – I can’t help but feel good about a worldwide effort to see this slight to the slain Israeli athletes be corrected. Maybe it isn’t only America. Maybe the rest of the world doesn’t hate us after all.
About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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