The Washington Post has published a moving article, “Russian Jews remember Israeli athletes murdered at 1972 Munich Olympic Games.” Unfortunately, it gets a few things wrong and provides a one-sided context for the tragedy.
Allow me to correct the report and fill in a few of the missing facts.
Just 23 years before the Olympic incident, Israel had been created through ethnically cleansing much of the indigenous Palestinian population.
This had been accomplished through at least 33 massacres and was maintained in the years following by still more acts of ethnic cleansing and additional massacres. (These included areas from which the Munich kidnappers came).
Five years before the Munich incident, Israel violently conquered even more Palestinian land (illegal under international law), pushing out another 325,000+ Palestinian men, women, and children, and killing at least 13,000 Arabs in all. About 800 Israelis died.
The violence continued, and beginning in 1968 Israeli forces repeatedly savaged 150 or more towns and villages in south Lebanon alone. By the time of the Munich Olympics, Israel held hundreds of prisoners in its notorious prison system.
It is widely known, but rarely stated, that the goal of the Munich hostage-taking was not to kill them; it was to return the athletes to Israel in return for Israel returning its Palestinian prisoners.
Many of these prisoners were also young people, and, if we could have seen them, they might have looked very much like the Israeli athletes, minus the physical health. Israel is not known for its merciful treatment of those it dislikes.
When the Israeli government refused to consider an exchange, the German police, with the Mossad at hand, were pushed into an ill-planned rescue attempt in which some of the hostages (no one knows how many) were killed accidentally by the police, and a German policeman was also killed.
The day after the botched and unnecessary “rescue,” Israel launched heavy air attacks against Lebanon and Syria, killing between 200 and 500 Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians, mostly civilians.
While Washington Post reporter Kathy Lally gives a great deal of information about the position of Russian Jews, going back over 100 years, it would have been valuable for her to tell a little about what the Munich incident was about – and about all the tragic victims of violence connected to the event, not just the 11 preferred ones.
Alison Weir is the executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of the upcoming history of US-Israel relations, Against Our Better Judgment, to be released next month.