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No, Open Zion, Deborah Lipstadt Won’t Shut Up

Jews shouldn’t be satisfied by an impromptu Munich commemoration

Deborah E. Lipstadt
July 24, 2012
On July 23, IOC President Jacques Rogge signs the Peace Wall in the Athletes Village(Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
On July 23, IOC President Jacques Rogge signs the Peace Wall in the Athletes Village(Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)

In response to my piece in Tablet, “Jewish Blood is Cheap,” Elisheva Goldberg, the assistant editor of Open Zion, the Peter Beinart site on The Daily Beast, accused me of being one of those Jews who is never satisfied. She believes that I, and the rest of the Jewish community, should be pleased that IOC President Jacques Rogge commemorated the Munich Olympics on Monday, and that we should stop demanding moment of silence at the opening ceremonies.

What did Rogge do that so moved Goldberg? He held his own personal moment of silence, admittedly not “at the opening ceremony in London but instead in front of 100 people at the athletes’ village.”

Goldberg is disturbed that Rogge’s actions did not “appease” those who are calling for a public moment of action. And she berates people like me for not giving the IOC “some positive reinforcement”—never mind that the IOC is a multi-billion dollar operation. After all, Goldberg notes, “Rogge is not opposed to commemorating the Munich murders in public” he just doesn’t want to do it at the opening.

“When,” she asks “will we be satisfied?” Shouldn’t Rogge’s “homage” be enough for us? Why, she wonders, am I being “stubborn” and “insensitive”?

Let me explain it to her: Never before or since were athletes murdered at the Games. Never before or since were the Games used by terrorists for their evil purposes. Never before or since were those who came to participate in a sports competition murdered for who they were and where they came from.

The proper place to acknowledge such a tragedy is not in a so-called spontaneous moment in front of 100 people, but in a purposeful action by the entire Olympic “family.”

Goldberg reminds me of the character in I.L. Peretz’s classic story Bontche Schweig. A desperately poor man who never complained despite having suffered multiple tragedies, Schweig arrives in the heavens. Everyone exalts him for having endured such suffering in silence. In reward for having done so, he is offered whatever he wants. Anything. Schweig asks to be given a hot roll and butter every day. The heavenly prosecutor, hearing Schweig’s small limited vision, “laughed a bitter laugh.”

Peretz’s prosecutor would be doubled over in laughter at Goldberg’s satisfaction with the IOC. Rogge probably already is.

In making a statement on Monday, the IOC’s president tried to throw the victims’ families a bone. Goldberg has caught it, and is happily gnawing away. I, and many others, have no intention of being so easily satisfied.

Deborah E. Lipstadt, author of Nextbook Press’ The Eichmann Trial, is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. Her Twitter feed is @deborahlipstadt.