Had the Palestinian Authority (PA) quietly and plainly said, “We support the plea of the families of the Israeli victims of the Munich Massacre for a moment of silence at the opening of the Olympic Games,” how the world might now be changed.
Can one imagine how far the gesture would have gone to changing the mostly suspicious mood between the two peoples, to establishing a new footing for constructive Israeli-Palestinian relations, to changing the Palestinian paradigm of hero from terrorist to peacemaker and to pressuring the Israeli government into an act of obviously equal, demonstrably goodwill? But, alas, there was no such watershed gesture from the PA.
Rather, quite the opposite happened.
The Palestinian leadership thanked the International Olympic Committee for refusing to hold the brief commemorative ceremony. As reported by the PA’s official news agency, Wafa, Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Federation, sent a letter to IOC chairman Jacques Rogge thanking him for not succumbing to the Israeli pleading.
“Sports is a bridge for love, connection and relaying peace between peoples. It should not be a factor for separation and spreading racism between peoples,” Rajoub, a former PA security commander, wrote in his letter.
To ensure that the sporting world clearly understood the many lovely nuanced references to reconciliation in Rajoub’s inclusivist, tolerant message to Rogge, a senior PA official in Ramallah added somewhat more bluntly, more typically true to the PA way, that the Palestinians were opposed to “Israel’s attempts to exploit the Olympic Games for propaganda purposes.”
In his effort to sound so positively pacifist in his outlook about the nature of sports, Rajoub somehow missed the rich irony that the cold-blooded murder of the 11 Israeli coaches and athletes at the Olympic Village in Munich 40 years ago by those Palestinian champions of sports and fair play was a bit contrary to the notion of sports as “a bridge for love, connection and relaying peace between peoples.”
Not surprisingly, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon condemned the PA for its characterization of the request for a moment of silence. “No, the murder of Israelis, because they are Israelis, is racist, not the request to dignify and honour them,” Ayalon wrote on Facebook.
Palestinian leaders, such as Rajoub, are stuck in the stultifying muck of their own hatred. They cannot lift their feet from that black quagmire to take even the most tentative steps on a new path toward peace with the Israelis. To do that they must first speak the few but precious words: “The Israelis, too, belong in this part of the world, in their own state. We want to live side by side with them in our own state. Let’s find a way to get there.”
But they cannot. Until they do, their own people will continue to suffer.