Lowey, Engel Want Olympic Committee To Honor Israelis Killed In ’72 Games

Westchester Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel wrote a letter to the International Olympic Committee urging the agency reconsider its decision to not honor the eleven Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

The duo requested a moment of silence in their honor before the start of the 2012 Games in London.

“The murder of 11 Israeli athletes by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics was a tragedy that reverberated far beyond the Games,” said Congresswoman Lowey, “It is necessary, important, and right to hold a minute of silence in recognition of the victims.  The continued refusal of the International Olympic Committee to honor the memories of these victims is unfathomable, and I urge the IOC to reconsider its decision.”

The eleven Israeli athletes were kidnapped in 1972 by Palestinian militants who hoped to extract the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.  The event has been memorialized in several films.

“The murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches can no longer be ignored by the International Olympic Committee.  It’s time that the IOC set aside a moment of silence to remember all of the victims,” said Mr. Engel.  “I urge the IOC to reconsider its appalling decision and stop standing in the way of an appropriate, solemn recognition of the horror which befell the Games 40 years ago.”


Ms. Lowey and Mr. Engel said they would introduce a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on the IOC to honor victims,  and they released a letter (printed below) to be sent directly to the IOC urging reconsideration of the decision.



Full Letter Text:

Jacques Rogge

President, International Olympic Committee

Château de Vidy

Case postale 356

1001 Lausanne, Switzerland


Dear President Rogge:


This year marks the 40th anniversary of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.  As we look forward to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, we write to request that you schedule a minute of silence during the opening ceremonies to honor the memories of these athletes – known as the Munich 11 – and to call attention to the ongoing need to be constantly vigilant against prejudice, hate, and intolerance.


In the early morning hours of September 5, 1972, eight members of a Palestinian militant group called Black September broke into the Munich Olympic village and entered the building where the Israeli team was staying.  An athlete and a coach were killed in the dormitory, while nine others – four athletes, three coaches, and two referees – were taken hostage.  Less than twenty four hours later, after several failed rescue attempts and a gun fight that left a German police officer dead, the nine hostages were also killed.

The massacre of the Munich 11 was a jarring reminder that the Olympic Games – long a symbol of international cooperation and camaraderie – are not wholly divorced from the hatred and intolerance that still exists throughout the world.  We believe that a minute of silence at this year’s games would be a powerful reminder that such terrible acts of violence will not go unremembered, and that all those witnessing the Opening Ceremonies must continue to work toward a world where people of any nation, race, or religion can live free of fear.


We are not persuaded by arguments articulated by members of the IOC and others that a minute of silence would politicize the Olympic Games or risk alienating countries that have disagreements with Israel.  The Munich 11 were athletes, coaches, and referees proudly representing their country when they were gunned down in an act of terrorism; a minute of silence would be a recognition of their sacrifice and a show of unity against terrorism period, not an endorsement of any political position.


According to The Nielson Company, over two billion people watched the Beijing Opening Ceremonies.  The Olympics provide a unique opportunity to send a message that can literally reach every corner of the globe.  While the Opening Ceremonies will – and should – be a joyful celebration of the international community putting aside political differences and coming together in a time-honored tradition of friendly competition, taking a single minute of those Ceremonies to remind the world of the forces that still threaten that unity would be both powerful and appropriate.


We therefore urge you to add a minute of silence to honor the Munich 11 to this year’s Opening Ceremonies.  Thank you for your consideration.



Nita Lowey

Eliot Engel

Lowey, Engel Want Olympic Committee To Honor Israelis Killed In ’72 Games