After refusing to condemn the 1972 murder of 9 Israeli Olympic athletes by terrorists, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made light of the Holocaust.
In the early hours of September 5, 1972, Olympic Athletes from all over the world slept peacefully, cosseted inside the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany- surrounded by their teammates and fellow athletes, perhaps dreaming of the gold medals they might win in the games that year.
They had all gathered in Munich back in 1972, as Olympic Athletes still do today, to bask in the warm spirit of international fellowship, good-natured athletic competition and peace.
Eight Palestinian terrorists calling themselves Black September had other plans.
After disguising themselves as athletes, the group scaled a fence, used stolen keys to enter the Olympic village, then forced their way into the quarters of the Israeli Olympic team at 4:30 a.m.
As the terrorists attempted to enter the first apartment, they were confronted by Yossef Gutfreund and Moshe Weinberg. Gutfreund was a wrestling referee and Weinberg a wrestling coach. The two men tried to stop the terrorists and Weinberg was shot.
The terrorists then forced Weinberg to lead them into the apartments of the other Israeli athletes, where Black September hoped to gather the group together. As Israeli wrestler Gad Tsabari tried to flee, Weinberg tried again to fight off the attackers.
He was shot and killed.
Israeli weightlifter Yossef Romano bravely attempted to disarm one of the hostage takers. He was also shot and killed, his body mutilated and left in the first apartment as a warning.
At that time, the terrorists took the remaining 9 Israeli athletes hostage and began their negotiations.
Improbably, then International Olympic Committee chairman Avery Brundage insisted the games continue, in spite of two murdered Israeli athletes and 9 more being held hostage.
What followed was one of the greatest tragedies and outrages in modern history. That it could have been prevented is heartbreaking enough. The Olympic committee had been warned- specifically- of this threat by a German police psychologist, Georg Sieber, who had been hired to consult on security.
Georg Sieber warned of a scenario in which a, “dozen Palestinian gunmen would scale the fence of the Olympic Village at 5:00 AM, seize Israeli hostages, kill one or two, and issue a demand for the release of prisoners from Israeli jails and an aircraft to fly them to the Middle East.”
Which, of course, is exactly what happened.
After seizing their hostages, and murdering anyone who attempted to thwart their terrible scheme, the terrorists made those exact demands.
A catastrophe of errors followed.
From accidentally broadcasting the counter-terrorist actions of the West German police to the entire country, and a billion people around the world- including the hostage takers- to a premature and incorrect report that all hostages were safe and hostage-takers dead, the whole episode was botched badly by authorities.
As the disaster unfolded, West Germany police attempted without success to thwart the terrorists while pretending to give into their demands of helicopters and a plane.
Just after midnight, one of the terrorists threw a hand grenade into the helicopter where half the Israeli hostages were being held, bound and blindfolded, instantly killing all but one, who succumbed to smoke inhalation before rescue personnel could reach him.
A second nearby helicopter held the other half of the hostages. One of the other terrorists used a machine gun at close range to spray the interior of that second helicopter, murdering the five remaining Israeli hostages as they sat helpless and bound.
“They’re all gone,” were the immortal words of U.S. sportscaster Jim McKay, who had been on scene covering the events of that terrible day.
The Munich Massacre, as it is called today, is one of the darkest days in history, to say nothing of sports history. It was a day when innocent athletes, attending an international event dedicated to peace and fellowship, were murdered by hostage-takers, terrorists and extremists.
As the world approaches the 50 year anniversary of the massacre, commemoration events have been planned in Germany. So it was perhaps only natural that the president of the Palestinian Authority, appearing at a press conference in Germany this week, was asked to condemn the actions of the terrorists.
German reporters were probably trying to give Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas an easy opportunity to show the world the difference between the legitimate government of Palestine and fringe terrorist groups claiming to speak for same.
It didn’t work.
Asked by a journalist if he would condemn the 1972 Olympics massacre in Munich, Abbas has this answer instead:
“From 1947 to the present day, Israel has committed 50 massacres in Palestinian villages and cities. 50 massacres, 50 Holocausts, and until today, and every day there are casualties killed by the Israeli military.”
Abbas, a political animal, begun backtracking on his own outrageous statement almost as soon as the international outcry became deafening.
“I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud #Abbas,” tweeted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was standing next to Abbas when he made the remark. “For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the singularly of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.”
“Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of having committed ‘50 Holocausts’ while standing on German soil is not only a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said. “Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including one and a half million Jewish children. History will never forgive him.”
“President Mahmoud Abbas reaffirms that the Holocaust is the most heinous crime that has occurred in modern human history,” said Abbas’ staff in a statement released soon after, as they dutifully sought to clarify his remarks.
“His answer was not intended to deny the specificity of the Holocaust, which was committed in the last century, and is condemned in the strongest possible terms,” the statement read. “What is meant by the crimes that Abbas spoke of are the massacres committed against the Palestinian people since the Nakba by Israeli forces, crimes that have not stopped to this day.”
This is hardly the first time Abbas has found himself in hot international waters over anti-Semitic comments. And in “clarifying” these remarks, Abbas’ staff has done him few favors.
The Palestinian Authority president had an easy opportunity to apologize for the 1972 massacre of 9 innocent Israeli athletes. It was clearly a crime for which there can be no justification.
Instead, Abbas demonstrated clearly his views about the Israeli athletes who lost their lives that very dark day in 1972. He also made his views on the Holocaust perfectly clear.
His non-apology apology aside, when someone shows this clearly who they really are, perhaps the world will finally believe him.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)