Zionism and the Olympics

The Munich Massacre

I have been following, admittedly not very closely, some of the critiques of the failure of the current Olympic Games to include a commemoration of the murder of 11 Olympic athletes at the Munich games 40 years ago, in 1972.  I am no expert on the events of 1972. The most I know about it I learned from watching Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich.  I remember watching the film during the year I lived in Mexico, when splurging on theatre tickets was a rare luxury and I was always hyper self-aware about the fact that I was consuming U.S. culture from such a different place. I remember really liking the film, largely because I interpreted it as a portrayal of the inhumanity involved in any kind of “revenge” mission and a sharp critique of the idea of agents of the Israeli state being either “victims” or righteous heroes. The ways in which the movie was criticized by pro-Israeli voices confirms my disgust for the ways in which Zionism silences any nuanced discussion of anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish violence in the 20th and 21st centuries.

It is this fundamental disagreement with how Zionists and Zionism distort and corrupt discussions of Jewish suffering that led me to view with initial skepticism the current controversy. Part of this corruption involves equating anti-Israeli politics or sentiments with anti-Semitism and linking all anti-Israeli actions to the Holocaust.[1] So it didn’t take me too long to figure out what irked me about this article. The author of the article claims that Gilot’s tattoo, which Gilot notes is a tribute to a family member who survived Aushwitz, is an act of “commemoration” of the Munich massacre. To be fair, Gilot doesn’t make this claim and several other articles on the tattoo simply identify it as a moving tribute to an influential figure in the swimmer’s life, akin to other tattoos devoted to his three siblings. The lack of Gilot’s own commentary on the Munich massacre or the current debate makes this article all the more illustrative of what I find so utterly cynical and duplicitous about Zionist interpretations of the relationship between the Holocaust and Israel. When the author of this article – Norman Lebrecht – chooses to conflate a personal remembrance of a family member killed in the Holocaust with the death of Israeli citizens, he participates in this conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli politics and actions. Here let me be clear: the murder of 11 Israeli athletes was horrific and asking for a moment of silence to recognize the tragedy doesn’t seem unreasonable – I’d like more moments of silence and more commemorations of all kinds of victims of violence. But to claim that a tattoo reading “I am nothing with out them” is a commemoration of the Munich massacre is ludicrous. The Israelis killed in 1972 are not one and the same as those who survived World War II. While some of the athletes killed were born in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s and therefore did appear to be survivors of the Nazi regime, they were not killed in 1972 by the Nazis nor is anti-Israeli Palestinian violence the same thing as anti-Jewish European violence. Black September, the organization to which the Palestinian perpetrators belonged, had its roots in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – which in turn had its roots in the Israeli expulsion of native peoples from their land the ensuing attempted ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.[2] The deaths of the Israeli athletes can be better attributed to the racist violence of Zionist policies and practices than it can to the simple hatred of Jewish people that is anti-Semitism. The failure to accurately distinguish between Israeli victims of violence and the Nazi-perpetuated Holocaust is one of the continual lies of omission of contemporary Zionism.




[1] I also have problems with this very terminology – the Holocaust – as it places the attempted genocide of Europe’s Jews in the mid-twentieth century in a primary position in relation to all other acts of ethnic cleansing; there can only be one “the” Holocaust - as though the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas or the Armenians did not also suffer “a” Holocaust

[2] Don’t take my word on it – take an Israeli historian’s.

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