Though many critics say the Opening Ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics was not as extravagant as Beijingâ€™s in 2008, it still had some memorable occurrences, even for Jews. If you happened to watch it, you might have noticed that Iran and Israel were marching nearby each other. While some news sources say this signified peace, I donâ€™t know how accurate that observation really isâ€¦ However, I would like to look back on Israelâ€™s history in the Olympics, particularly in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
I am talking about the Munich Massacre, when Black September held hostage and murdered eleven Israelis and a German policeman. Black September was a group of Palestinians in the â€˜70s that many sources believe was controlled by Yasser Arafatâ€™s clergy. While Black September is no longer really around, the PLO (Palestine Liberation Movement) is still very active. Since 1993 Israel has recognized this group as the main representative for Palestinians, yet in regards to the United Nationsâ€™ consideration it has been renamed Palestine.
Their â€œransom requestâ€ was for the 234 Palestinians (and a few non-Arabs) held captive in Israel to be released to Egypt, along with several German terrorists captured by the German government.
In the mourning of the Massacre, most Olympic flags were lowered to half-staff, as a typical sign of respect to the individuals murdered. However, ten Arab countries, in addition to the Soviet Union refused to lower their flags. This sign of disrespect obviously goes against the usual proud, joyous tone of the Olympics.
While there were extensive effects on the Olympics, the decision for Israelâ€™s Olympic team to even continue participating in them was extremely controversial. Unfortunately, Israel had to respond to this terrorist attack in some manner, which led Golda Meir to create Operation Wrath of God (Mivtza Za’am Ha’el). This plan was aimed at assassinating the individuals behind the Munich Massacre. Combined with Operation Spring of Youth the following year, PLO and other similar groups realized Israelâ€™s strength. While it is inopportune that Israel had to retaliate against a terrorist attack to get their strength recognized, they had to somehow stand up for themselves.
In 2005 Steven Spielberg produced Munich, which presents the aftermath of the Munich Massacre. If you have not yet seen it, I highly recommend this film; however, beware of the violence and maturity (rated R). As we all know, thirty eight years later, Israel is still fighting to defend itself.
Back to the Olympics, I hope that Israelâ€™s competitors (along with the United Statesâ€™) at Vancouver perform well and are safe. Luckily, the Munich Massacre is in our history. Now, if only the positioning of Iran and Israel in this year’s Olympic Opening Ceremony truly represented their relationshipâ€¦