Palestine politics at the Olympics

The upcoming Olympic Games in London mark the 40th anniversary of the massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorist during the 1972 Olympics in Munich. But there won’t be any official commemoration, and it’s not hard to figure out why. As Jennifer Lipman put it:

“It seems clear that the IOC [International Olympic Committee] is worried about rocking the boat, angering Arab nations by honouring men who were killed by Palestinian terrorists. It’s afraid to take Israel’s side; it does not see it as a gamble worth the cost.”

To be sure, the Olympic Games are supposed to be apolitical, but the IOC’s refusal to commemorate the attack during the Munich Olympics is inevitably political. And the message is clear: the IOC accepts that up to this very day, Arab – and indeed Muslim – nations are unwilling to tolerate anything that would imply a condemnation of terrorism against Israeli Olympic athletes.

Lipman argues that this ultimately violates the Olympic charter, which “is clear on prejudice, namely, that ‘any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.’”

But the anti-discrimination provisions of the Olympic charter are probably not taken too seriously when it comes to the world’s only Jewish state. As one example, consider the fact that the National Olympic Committees are organized according to regions and that Israel is a European member, while Palestine is an Asian member.

It seems that the discriminatory dynamics at work here are similar to the one at the UN, where Israel was for decades the only UN member state excluded from a UN regional grouping because the Arab states opposed Israel’s membership in the Asian Group, which would be the appropriate geographic regional group.

Interestingly enough, a recent Reuters report mentions that “the Palestinians compete in Asia and Israel are affiliated with European sports bodies,” but no explanation for this curious fact is provided. Perhaps it would be inconvenient to acknowledge that Israel was originally a member of the Asian Games Federation, but was excluded in 1981/82, when this organization was succeeded by the Olympic Council of Asia – which, incidentally, has its headquarters in Kuwait City and is currently chaired by Sheikh Fahad Al-Sabah.

True, this exclusion of Israel looks a whole lot like Apartheid in the most literal sense – but since it keeps the world’s only Jewish state apart from the Arab and Muslim states that are staunchly opposed to any “normalization”, it’s a “politically correct” form of Apartheid that is tolerated by the UN and the IOC, and is hardly ever even mentioned in the media.

Judging from some of the media reports that have been published in the run-up to this year’s Olympic Games in London, there is every reason to expect more of this “political correctness.”  Both a recent BBC article and a Reuters report follow a similar recipe: Let’s pretend it’s all about sports, while not missing any opportunity to uncritically echo the Palestinian “narrative” and give Palestinian sport personalities ample opportunity to voice their political views – and obviously, all this without even hinting at the unique Palestinian contribution to Olympic terror.

Consequently, Palestinian judoka Maher Abu Rmeileh simply has lots of reason “to be proud as he will carry the Palestinian flag at the opening ceremony on July 27.”

The recent BBC article on Rmeileh (Rmelleh) opens with the claim:

“After struggling to pursue sport for years because of the impact of the conflict with Israel, Palestinians now have a rare chance to celebrate success.”

Abu Rmelleh is presented as “modest” and is quoted as saying:

“I’m so happy to be representing Palestine. And it’s great that I’m from Jerusalem, the capital.”

Immediately following this quote, there is a subheader that reads: “Transcending politics”

Here’s one example of what the BBC means by ““Transcending politics:”

“For the past two years one man has been behind the promotion of sports in the Palestinian territories – Jibril Rajoub, former head of security for the Palestinian Authority, now President of the Palestinian Football Federation and of the Palestinian Olympic Committee.

His latest initiative is an annual football tournament to commemorate the Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’, the Palestinian name for the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes or were displaced. […]

‘Sport transcends politics,’ Mr Rajoub says, but he is also aware of its political message, seeing it as ‘a peaceful means of exposing Palestinian suffering’.

It’s not the first time that the BBC quotes Jibril Rajoub: as I noted in a post on the “Palestinian blood and soil fixation,” a BBC report about a World Cup qualification game from July last year quoted Rajoub as saying:

“Palestinian blood, Palestinian flesh, the Palestinian national anthem on Palestinian territory. It’s good. It makes me feel proud.”

Apparently, nobody sees anything wrong with that if it’s the President of the Palestinian Football Federation and of the Palestinian Olympic Committee who says it. I guess it would be a whole different story if a German official said it: German blood, German flesh, the German national anthem on German territory…  Even if you substitute French, English , or any other nationality, it doesn’t sound much better.

But as it turns out, the President of the Palestinian Football Federation and of the Palestinian Olympic Committee sometimes sounds even worse (or maybe that’s just me?): During a recent event for the first Forum for Arab women sports journalists, Rajoub declared to the roaring applause of the audience:

“Normalization with the occupation is impossible, impossible, impossible, with no exceptions…
I understand by normalization that the relationship between me and you will be normal, that we’ll play [sports] together and there will be a joint program. I say: There will never be normalization in sports. Next time we are prepared to bring the Executive Committee in helicopters… so they will see no Jews, no Satans, no Zionist sons of bitches. Come by helicopter and go back by helicopter.”

Well, there won’t be any journalist who would ask Mr. Rajoub how he feels about the Palestinian terror attack during the Munich Olympic Games 40 years ago. But perhaps the sympathetic media coverage of all things Palestinian and Palestinian sports in particular will bring some donations that would allow the President of the Palestinian Olympic Committee to realize his vision of how best to avoid the awful sight of “Jews, … Satans, … Zionist sons of bitches.”

And perhaps, if Mr. Rajoub attends the London Olympcis, somebody will arrange helicopter transportation for him to avoid any encounters with the local “Jews, … Satans, … Zionist sons of bitches?”

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.


Here is a gripping piece remembering the Munich massacre and, importantly, emphasizing its grim legacy that is usually left politely unmentioned: Gerald Seymour “The horrific legacy of Munich ’72: I was there the day Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli athletes.

(via @RichMillett)


The BBC article I linked to ends with a section that describes “the Israeli occupation” as the “biggest obstacle of all” for Palestinian athletes. As an example, the BBC refers to

“the case of Mahmoud Sarsak, a footballer from Gaza, detained by Israel as he set off to compete in a match in the West Bank in 2009. […] Israel says Sarsak belongs to the Islamic Jihad militant group and is a threat to national security, an allegation Sarsak denies.

In the Israel-Palestinian conflict, even the beautiful game can turn ugly.”

Sad, isn’t it?

Well, Sarsak has just been released, and that’s how he was welcomed back home in Gaza:

“senior Islamic Jihad officials were present during a welcoming ceremony for him in Gaza City on Tuesday, and one of the group’s leaders, Nafez Azzam, praised the soccer player as “one of our noble members.”
Later Tuesday, as Sarsak approached his family home in the Rafah refugee camp, dozens of Islamic Jihad gunmen fired in the air from SUVs and motorcycles. Women waved black Islamic Jihad banners from nearby homes and streets were decorated with huge photos of the player.”


As Adam Holland just reports on his blog, the BBC actually published a piece on Sarsak’s release and his return to Gaza, failing to mention that Islamic Jihad acknowledged him as a member: “It seems that BBC had a predetermined idea of the story they wanted to report and didn’t let the facts interfere with it.”


3 responses to “Palestine politics at the Olympics

  1. Pingback: Molad – or: what’s wrong with the Israeli left | The Warped Mirror

  2. Pingback: BBC yet again conceals terror connections of Palestinian ‘footballers’ | BBC Watch

  3. Pingback: Soccer and terrorism: what UEFA needs to know [updated] | The Warped Mirror

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