I didn’t write anything about the controversy over the IOC’s refusal to mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich Olympics massacre with a moment of silence at the opening ceremony of the London games—a refusal that, entre autres, earned the IOC a thank you note from the Palestinian Authority, which seemed to feel that such a commemoration would “be a cause for divisiveness and for the spreading of racism.” No joke. It’s now old news, so two weeks ago. Except that yesterday I was on Alain Gresh’s blog on the Le Monde Diplomatique website and came across a post of his dated July 25th, “Jeux olympiques : Munich, quarante ans après,” where he offered his commentary and then posted the entirety of an article that LMD published in October 1972 on Black September’s Munich operation, by Lebanese intellectual Samir Frangieh—then a leftist, nowadays a leading figure in the March 14 alliance—, where Frangieh described the collective “état d’esprit” of the Arab population in the aftermath of the operation and with an analysis of its significance for the Palestinian movement. An interesting read. This passage caught my attention
Pendant vingt-quatre heures, les masses arabes, profondément traumatisées par l’échec de la tentative de détournement de l’avion de la Sabena en mai 1972 et par les commentaires suscités en Israël, ont vécu dans l’angoisse. Et quand la nouvelle de la mort des otages israéliens a été connue, une explosion de joie a secoué le monde arabe. A Damas, les gens se félicitaient dans la rue du succès de l’opération. A Tripoli, dans le nord du Liban, une collecte de fonds, organisée en faveur de la résistance, a permis de ramasser des sommes d’argent considérables. Septembre noir venait de porter un coup au mythe de l’invincibilité d’Israël, savamment entretenu par les théoriciens des régimes arabes et qui représentait certainement un des blocages idéologiques les plus forts au niveau des masses.
In short, the news of the death of the Israeli athletes was greeted with an explosion of joy across the Arab world, with people congratulating each other on the street, doing high fives, and the like. How nice. Well, I guess one understands why the PA was so hostile to marking Munich with a minute of silence…
This reminded me of one of the many interesting things I learned in Yezid Sayigh’s Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949-1993, which I read a couple of years ago (an essential book on the subject, though hard to come by; at 1000 pages w/small print, it was not exactly a best-seller). In discussing the Palestinian fedayeen operations launched from Lebanon into Israel in the 1970s—Kiryat Shmona, Maalot, etc—and that targeted civilians, Sayigh informs the reader that the Lebanese offices of the groups that carried them out (PFLP, DFLP, etc) were besieged with potential recruits in the aftermath of the operations, thereby encouraging other groups to emulate them. The base, as it were, thought terrorism was great. They loved it. Hey, Sayigh said it (all but), not me.
Back to the Munich massacre, after Steven Spielberg’s film came out in 2006, a Paris theater screened the 1999 documentary on the event, ‘One Day in September‘, which won the Oscar for best documentary that year. It’s a very interesting film, where one learns that the German state—the government and police—was blindsided by Black September’s operation and was utterly unprepared and unequipped to deal with it. International terrorism of the sort inaugurated by the Palestinians—and with the complicity of states—was a new phenomenon and that had Europe entirely exposed. Thus the confused reaction of the German authorities and the incredible incompetence of its police (which adapted and got smart after the event, as witnessed, e.g., in the 1977 Lufthansa hijacking). A documentary worth seeing.
UPDATE: The New York Times reports on the “Long-hidden details [that] reveal [the] cruelty of [the] 1972 Munich attackers” (December 1st 2015). Shocking and sickening.