At a commemoration of the Munich massacre, Herzog evokes the terrorisms of yesterday and today

President Isaac Herzog speaks at an event in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to mark 50 years since the Munich Olympics massacre, saying ‘the same dark hatred’ was behind the killing of the athletes Israelis and the recent murder of an elderly woman in Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

In his speech, Herzog paid tribute to the eleven Israelis murdered in 1972 as well as 84-year-old Shulamit Rachel Ovadia, who was killed in a terror attack on Tuesday. He promised that Israel would continue to defend its citizens.

“The horrific terrorist attack that took place yesterday in Holon, in which Shulamit Rachel Ovadia, an elderly woman, a woman who had a family, was shockingly killed by a Palestinian terrorist, stems from the same dark hatred that fed the depraved murderers of Munich. The same blind, awful hatred that we will not let win,” the president said.

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The Head of State declared that the Munich Olympics had been “the darkest in the history of sport in the world”.

“This is when the Olympic torch was extinguished, blown out, and the five-ringed flag bathed in blood,” he added.

Palestinian terrorists from the Black September group managed to infiltrate the Olympic Village. They had first killed two athletes from the Israeli national team and they had taken nine other Israeli sportsmen hostage on September 5, 1972. The terrorists hoped to obtain the release of Palestinian detainees imprisoned in Israel, as well as that of two extremists of the left who were then imprisoned in West Germany. The nine hostages and a German police officer had died during the subsequent operation by German forces, which had attempted to put an end to this hostage-taking.

A member of the Arab commando who seized members of the Israeli Olympic team in their quarters at the Olympic village in Munich, appearing with a hood over his face on the balcony of the village building where the commandos took several members hostage of the Israeli team, September 5, 1972. (AP/Kurt Strumpf/Archives)

The lifeless body of Mousa Sarsour – the 28-year-old Palestinian who is suspected of killing Ovadia – was discovered Wednesday in an abandoned building in Tel Aviv. The police favor the hypothesis of suicide.

Standing alongside Herzog and his wife Michal, at this ceremony to commemorate the attack on the Munich Olympics, families of victims and athletes, the Minister of Culture and Sports Chili Tropper, the president of the international committee Olympic Games, Thomas Bach, President of the Israeli National Olympic Commission Yael Arad.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the deadly attack by Palestinian terrorists against the Israeli Olympic team at the Munich Olympics in Tel Aviv, Israel, September 21 2022. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

In his speech, Bach said the attack in Munich was “one of the darkest days in the history of Olympism” and was an assault on the Olympics and their values.

“Everything the Olympics stood for was shattered fifty years ago by the horrific attack on the Israeli Olympic team,” he said. He apologized for the long years taken by the Olympic Committee to pay tribute “in a dignified manner” to the Israeli victims.

A moment of silence was held during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics last year – it was the first time that organizers marked the killing of Israeli athletes in almost a quarter of a century .

A multimedia presentation during a ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the deadly attack by Palestinian terrorists against the Israeli Olympic team at the Munich Olympics, at the port of Tel Aviv, September 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Maya allerzzo)

During the day, Bach went for the very first time to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial, accompanied by his wife Claudia, Arad and Dani Dayan, the site director.

On this occasion, Dayan offered Bach a book, To Bear Witness: Holocaust Remembrance at Yad Vashema compendium of information on the genocide.

“Words alone cannot capture the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust. It is here, at Yad Vashem, that I solemnly reaffirm the commitment of the entire Olympic movement to non-discrimination and peace”, Bach had written in the guest book before adding: “Each human being must do everything in his power so that such a heinous crime against humanity can never be repeated”.

From left: Claudia Bach, Yad Vashem Director Dani Dayan, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, and Israeli National Olympic Commission President Yael Arad in the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, September 21, 2022. (Credit: Yad Vashem/Jorge Novominsky)

During the visit, Dayan stressed the importance of the story of Jewish athletes who had been persecuted by the Nazi regime.

“Part of being aware of the Holocaust is knowing what life was like for Jews before the atrocities; it is to understand the role that competitive sport and culture played in Jewish life,” he explained.

Earlier this month, Herzog had traveled to Germany to attend a commemoration of the Munich massacre attended by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He had also given a speech in the German parliament, the Bundestag, ending his stay with a visit to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

This official trip took place after the conclusion of a compensation agreement between the families of the victims of the Munich attack and the German government after the threat brandished, by the families of the murdered athletes, to boycott the commemoration ceremony in the context of this long-standing financial conflict.

The Times of Israel staff contributed to this article.


The article is in French

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