WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama “absolutely” supports a moment of silence at next week’s London Olympics to mark the 40th anniversary of the massacre of Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Munich Olympics, according to a White House official.
“We absolutely support the campaign for a minute of silence at the Olympics to honor the Israeli athletes killed in Munich,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Yahoo News.
Upon hearing the news, Guri Weinberg, the son of slain Israeli wrestling coach Moni Weinberg, tweeted:
According to the Yahoo report, Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said the former Massachusetts governor had not taken a public stance on the issue.
In 2002, on the 30th anniversary of the Munich massacre, Romney was CEO of the organizing committee for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rejected a request by the families of the slain Israeli athletes to commemorate the tragedy with a moment of silence.
The victims’ families have petitioned the IOC – unsuccessfully — for a moment of silence at every Olympic Games since 1972. The IOC has said the massacre will be commemorated this year at a separate ceremony, away from the Opening Ceremony, despite a global pressure campaign waged by those who support a moment to remember the 11 Israelis athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian terrorists affiliated with the Black September group.
President Obama’s statement of support follows a condolence telephone call he held on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a bus bomb in Bulgaria killed five Israeli tourists.
The Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), Marc Stanley, and its CEO, David Harris, issued this statement in response to the news from the White House:
“President Barack Obama’s support for a moment of silence to commemorate the Israeli Olympians slain 40 years ago is a tremendous help to the voices in our community pushing the International Olympic Committee to do the right thing and recognize the loss suffered by Israel, the Jewish people and the international community. Honoring the slain athletes is simply the right thing to do. Once again, our President and his Administration have taken an important extra step, and we thank him deeply for his support.”
Although the Republican Jewish Coalition has not publicly reacted to Obama’s support for a moment of silence, one guest blogger on the RJC website noted last week that the President had not yet joined other world leaders, such as Australian President Julia Gillard and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, in publicly calling for a commemoration of the Munich tragedy at the Opening Ceremony of the London games.
I think Obama’s last-minute endorsement of the idea comes too late to make any difference
“While I obviously support a moment of silence to mark the occasion, I think Obama’s last-minute endorsement of the idea comes too late to make any difference,” says a prominent Jewish Republican. “If he were really serious about it, he should’ve weighed in a long time ago when there was a chance to actually make it happen.”