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Should the London Olympics remember the 1972 Munich Holocaust? Do you?

America can’t memorialize the 1972 Munich hostage killings, because that act of terrorism was not unlike our own airstrikes or special ops raids, against purported enemy combatants, off the field of combat, except we don’t even try to kidnap them alive.
 
Of course the Israeli Olympic wrestlers and weightlifters killed in Munich in 1972 should be memorialized. But to call the deaths a massacre pretends the German police meant their ambush to kill everyone.* What happened at the 1972 Olympics is being recalled as the “Munich Massacre” but even the propagandists tweaking the Wikipedia entry don’t have the temerity to doff the disclaimer that “massacre” is the informal name. Shall we recall what happened? On September 5, 1972, PLO terrorists infiltrated the Olympic village and tried to kidnap Israeli hostages to exchange for 234 Palestinians held by Israel. Two Israelis fought back and were killed. Next the eight gunman and their nine captives were led into an ambush at a military airfield. After a 1 & 1/2 hour gun battle on the tarmac, trapped under the helicopters by police snipers, the PLO killed four of their captives. A police investigation revealed the remaining five captives may have died in sniper crossfire. This detail is disputed, but a secret financial settlement was sought and reached with German authorities. So, was Munich a massacre or a botched hostage rescue? Do words matter? The Mossad’s retaliatory murder of an innocent Moroccan waiter in Norway, mistaken for the Munich mastermind, is trivialized as the Lillehammer Affair.

Proponents want an Olympic tribute to the Munich Massacre “so that it never happens again.” Boy does that ever have a familiar ring to it. Look out for an Elie Wieselish re-tailoring of the original narrative, Steven Spielberg’s Munich being only a recent example of a myth-makeover remembrance.

To begin with, the PLO kidnappers were a faction of the PLO called the Black September Brigade, named after the Black September purge of the PLO from Jordan. This ouster, aided by the US and fought by Syria, was initiated by Israel’s attack on the village of Karameh, in which the PLO suffered 200 killed, to the IDF’s 28. Not a massacre because 150 PLO fighters were taken captive. Wikistorians taking liberties with translation are calling the PLO group “Black September”, with the effect of obfuscating the event which preceded the Munich operation.

The Munich raid to seize hostages was actually named “Operation Iqrit and Kafr Bir’im” after the Christian villages of Kafr Bir’im and Iqrit, ethnically cleansed by Israel in 1948. Villagers were granted right of return by Israel’s supreme court, but overruled by the military. An attempt to return had been repulsed by police as recently as August 1972, as the Olympics began.

Next, the identity of the Israeli athletes is always left incomplete. With the exception of the 18 year old Russian immigrant, all the Israeli hostages were IDF soldiers who’d participated in military acts against Palestine, Egypt, lebanon, Jordan, or Syria, and so are not exactly the innocent civilians of current retellings.

Who killed the Israeli captives during the gun battle with German police? An immediate investigation found that sniper fire may have hit the captives, as it had also severely wounded a fellow policeman. A cover-up long obscured the official reports. While this could be pretended to protect the German participants, it also kept the blame on the PLO gunmen, which would have been critical to justify Israel’s “eye for an eye” revenge killings.

Did the gunman strafe their hostages with bullets upon seeing the arrival of the police armored reinforcements? The only witness accounts come from the German authorities. We might accept that the lead PLO gunman lobbed a grenade into the first helicopter with the intention of killing the four hostages it contained, if they were still alive. An autopsy revealing that one of the Israelis died from the flames is used the emphasize that the grenade, and thus a PLO terrorist, certainly killed him.

Though the German police admitted potential culpability for the deaths of the five hostages in the second helicopter, a later analysis put convenient blame on a particular gunman, one of them ones captured and who eventually escaped justice by being released. Certainly this narrative would be critical if Israel hoped for popular support for their effort to hunt the gunman down.

Many of Israel’s revenge killings involved car bombs which risked collateral deaths and injuries. Assassinating the “mastermind” killed eight others, including a nun, and injured 18 more.

Whether the PLO gunmen killed the Israelis or not, even the operation’s planners can’t be said to have intended it. No one masterminded a massacre.

Of the PLO participants in Munich, five gunman were killed, and three were captured. Those three were released weeks later to meet the demands of a subsequent hijacking. Israel’s Mossad boasted of having tracked them down and assassinated them shortly thereafter. But accounts vary, and one of them was interviewed decades later for a documentary. What’s known is that Israel implemented an “eye for an eye” operation that over 20 years hunted and killed 20-35 Palestinian targets. They weren’t sought out to take hostage but to murder, and most of them were unconnected to the Black September Brigade. The Mossad long-arm-of-the-law theme was less about revenge than deterrence, because anyone who might have masterminded or abetted the Munich plot was planning a kidnapping not a murder.

If a massacre is measured by an imbalance of casualties, let’s look at the numbers. After 11 Israelis were murdered, Israel retaliatory airstrikes killed 200 in Syria and Lebanon, an IDF raid killed up to 100 in Lebanon, and the Mossad targeted up to 35 in subsequent assassinations. Here’s an accounting:

Sept 5-6, 1972
11 Israeli athletes, coaches former IDF
(2 killed by BSB in initial break-in, 9 killed during the ambush rescue attempt, possibly by crossfire)
1 German police
5 PLO gunmen

Sept 8, 1972
IAF retaliatory airstrikes on PLO bases in Syria and Lebanon.
200 Palestinians killed, including women and children

IDF Operation “SPRING OF YOUTH” raid on Lebanon, April 1973
3 PLO suspected planners
12-100 PLO members
1 PLO wife
1 Italian woman
2 Lebanese policemen
Unknown number of Lebanese civilians

Mossad Operation “WRATH OF GOD”, (20-35 targets over 20 years)
PLO translator of disputed BSB involvement, Oct 1972
PLO senior official, December 1972
Palestinian activist “expertly” pushed under bus, London, 1972
Jordanian Fatah rep, January 1973
Law professor at Am Univ of Beirut, April, 1973
Replacement for Fatah rep, Athens, April 1973
(2 BSB minor members injured, Rome, April 1973)
PLO director of operations for BSB, June 1973
Moroccan waiter, mistaken identity, Norway, July 1973
3 Arab-looking men, Switzerland, January 1974
Arab security guard, Spain, August 1974
PLO rep, blamed on the Abu Nidal Org, London, January 1978
2 PLO reps, Paris, August 1978 (3 injured)
PLO suspected “mastermind”, car-bomb, January 1979, also killed:
4 Bodyguards
1 British student
1 German nun
2 Lebanese passersby (also 18 injured)
PLO military head, Cannes, July 1979
2 Palestinians, December, 1979
PLO rep, Brussels, June 1981
2 PLO senior figures, car bomb, Rome, June 1982
PLO senior official, car bomb, Paris, July 1982
PLO senior official, drive-by, Athens, August 1983
PLO Secretary-General, drive-by, Athens, June 1986
PLO official, car bomb, Athens, October 1986
2 Palestinians, car bomb, Cyprus, February 1988 (1 other wounded)
PLO suspected head of intelligence, June 1992

What’s that? The ratio is 11 to 335 and the Israelis want to call it a massacre? If you count the Palestinians killed in the initial Black September attack on the PLO in Jordan, the comparison becomes irrelevant.

But the Munich ratio is nothing compared to the 1,500 Gazans killed in Operation Cast Lead. Now there’s a massacre.

*ON THE OTHER HAND. The botched hostage rescue in Munich might very well have been a massacre. Do we really want to go there? The German snipers who initiated the gun battle at Furstenfeldbruck Airbase may really have behaved with a total disregard to the fate of the Israeli hostages. With the antisemitism that prevailed in Europe, and still prevails there among the working classes, it’s very likely the policemen looked at the gunmen and their captives with equal scorn. If the bound Israelis weren’t hit in the crossfire, it could certainly be held that the sniper attack provoked their killing. The coverup and subsequent private financial settlement reached between Germany and the Israeli survivors suggests a culpability of the like. In that respect, if European Jews look back at Munich 1972 and say it was a massacre, I believe them.

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