IOC spurning of memory of murdered Israeli athletes should come as no surprise

The IOC's history makes clear that the organisation cannot be expected to take a morally acceptable stance. So let's not be surprised that it won't hold a minute's silence for eleven murdered athletes

IOC President, Jacques Rogge
Hadar Sela
On 19 July 2012 09:10

It is by now pretty clear that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has no intention of changing its stance on the subject of the modest request for a minute's silence to commemorate the eleven Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists forty years ago at the Munich Olympics.

In his letter of response to the request, IOC President Jacques Rogge wrote:

“What happened in Munich in 1972 strengthened the determination of the Olympic Movement to contribute more than ever to building a peaceful and better world by educating young people through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit.”

But of course the real message which Rogge and his committee are transmitting loud and clear to the young people they claim to educate is that the 'Olympic spirit' is craven in the face of political pressures and that the IOC considers a 'peaceful and better world' to be one in which terrorism is appeased and overlooked.

That message, however, is neither new nor surprising.

The background to Rogge's current stance begins with the fact that just eight years after Munich, Yasser Arafat - under whose leadership the PLO created the Black September terrorist group which carried out the murders  - attended the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow at the invitation of the Soviet government and with an apparent blind eye from the IOC.

It continues with the Palestine Olympic Committee's acceptance to the Olympic Council of Asia just 13 years after the terror attack and the IOC decision to accept Palestine as a full member in 1995, despite the fact that Arafat  headed the Palestine Olympic Committee in its early days.

Palestine's first ever Olympic participant (at the 1996 Atlanta games) held a day job with Force 17 – Arafat's elite security unit - which also engaged in terror attacks. Force 17 was founded and initially commanded by Ali Hassan Salameh, who was also chief of operations for Black September.

One of Force 17's more notable alumni is Imad Mughniyah – who later went on to join Hizballah.

Today, the Palestine Olympic Committee is headed by Jibril Rajoub – himself no stranger to terrorism, having joined Fatah in his youth and been convicted of throwing a grenade at Israeli soldiers in 1970. Rajoub was released from prison in 1985 under the 'Jibril deal'  prisoner exchange with the PFLP-GC.

His repeated re-arrest for terrorist activities and his role as organiser in the first Intifada caused him to be deported to Lebanon in 1988. From there he moved to Tunis, where he was the aide and advisor of Khalil al Wazir – aka Abu Jihad – the commander of Black September in the early 70s.

Following al Wazir's assassination, Rajoub (aka Abu Rami) became one of Arafat's right-hand men and was allegedly behind a 1992 plot to assassinate Ariel Sharon. With the signing of the Oslo Accords, Rajub returned to his native village near Hebron in 1994 and became head of the PA's Preventative Security Force (which has been accused in numerous instances of torture of opponents of Arafat) until 2002.

During 'Operation Defensive Shield' (following the terror attack on the Park Hotel), Hamas and other wanted terrorists were found sheltering in Rajoub's headquarters in Bitouniya. 

In 2003 (whilst the PA's terror war against Israeli civilians still raged) he was appointed to the post of Arafat's national security advisor and raised to the rank of Major General. In 2009 Rajoub was elected to the Fatah Central Committee. As well as being president of the Palestine Olympic Committee, Rajoub also heads the Palestinian Football Federation.

Although today Jibril Rajoub likes to present himself as a pro-peace 'moderate', that impression is frequently contradicted when he speaks to his own people.

Shortly after his election to the Fatah Central Committee at the sixth Fatah Congress in August 2009, Jibril gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he stated that "We [Fatah] adhere to all options and first and foremost, the option of resistance and armed struggle".  

In 2011 Rajoub represented the PA at a reception for Palestinian prisoners (many of them convicted terrorists) released under the terms of the Shalit deal, praising both the kidnappers of Gilad Shalit and the newly-released terrorists themselves. 

Neither does Rajoub steer clear of using his sports-related posts as leverage for his political agenda. In June 2012 he demanded that UEFA cancel Israel's hosting of the 2013 European Under-21 Championship and he was active in campaigning on behalf of Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Mahmoud Sarsak.

As recently as May 2012, Rajoub volunteered to lead a campaign to have Israel expelled from all Olympic unions and committees and stated that he opposes any form of 'normalisation' with Israel, including in the field of sports.

Jibril Rajoub's weighty terrorist past and his support for terrorism in the present have presented no obstacle to his rise up the ladder of international sports, either as president of the Palestine Olympic Committee or in the world of football.

For all its fine words and its glossy charter, the International Olympic Committee's appeasement of terror and unwillingness to take a stand against political bullying is by now a long-established tradition.

Its rapid embrace of those connected to the organisation which perpetrated the most horrific event in the history of the IOC is an indication that the organization cannot be expected to take a morally acceptable stance.   

So let's not pretend to be surprised that for the IOC a minute's silence to remember eleven murdered athletes is too much to ask. 

Hadar Sela is an Anglo-Israeli writer and blogger living in Israel

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