An Israeli Olympic official has caused outrage after he refused to support the call for a minute’s silence at the London Olympics in honour of the 11 Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists 40 years ago.
Alex Gilady, an Israeli International Olympics Committee member, said a minute’s silence “may harm the unity of the Olympics” and “could cause some countries to boycott the Games”.
Mr Gilady covered the 1972 Munich Games as a journalist for Israeli television, and returned to the country alongside the coffins of the dead athletes.
He said: “Why now? There was a minute’s silence in Munich the day after the murder and it would have been appropriate to have had a minute’s silence in Montreal in 1976. I don’t know why that didn’t happen.
“The Olympic Museum exhibits a statue donated in memory [of the athletes] by the Olympic Committee of Israel (OCI) and at every Olympics the OCI holds a memorial ceremony and the IOC sends representation.”
His remarks infuriated Israeli and British organisations and politicians who have appealed to the IOC to reverse its stance and hold a silence in London next month.
Ilana Romano, widow of weightlifter Yosef Romano, who was killed in Munich, said Mr Gilady’s comments gave “backing to terror”.
Mrs Romano said: “We have been fighting for 40 years for the Olympic movement to recognise and condemn the terror in Munich and we won’t relent despite the negative response. The IOC are behaving like ostriches.”
Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “Abhorrence of the Munich murders should be something that unites all Olympians and it is a very sad indictment indeed if it is seen instead as divisive.”
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has helped lead the campaign for a minute’s silence.
He said: “It’s a shame that a person who claims he represents Israel’s interests is not prepared to support a humanitarian initiative supported by the public in Israel and abroad. The concern that a minute’s silence would cause a boycott is groundless. If a few athletes did boycott the games they would be isolated, not Israel.”
Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition to be sent to the IOC. It was set up by Ankie Spitzer, whose husband, fencing coach Andre Spitzer, was killed in the attack.
Martin Berliner, Maccabi GB chief executive, said Mr Gilady’s comments were “hard to understand.The Jewish and Israel community worldwide feels very strongly about this. It’s difficult to speak out against a minute’s silence for anyone murdered in such a way. ”
Labour London Assembly member Andrew Dismore has asked London Mayor Boris Johnson to appeal again to the IOC. Mr Dismore said: “The comments are not helpful in what is a very difficult case. It shows you how the IOC operates putting business before principle, and ignoring the Olympic ideal.”