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Munich Olympic Massacre

September 5, 2012

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): Like John Mann, I deeply regret the failure by the International Olympic Committee to commemorate properly the 40th anniversary of the murder not only of 11 Israeli athletes and team members but of a West German policeman at the Munich Olympiad in 1972.

As my hon. Friend Bob Blackman pointed out in his excellent opening speech, it is especially apposite to bring this issue to public attention today as it is the 40th anniversary of the massacre; it is exactly four decades ago that those terrible events began to unfold. At that time, I was a seven-year-old schoolboy. However, as someone of part-German heritage, I recall the great hope that surrounded those Olympic games. As my hon. Friend Mr Hollobone pointed out, people had memories not only of the war but of the previous German Olympiad of 1936, which took place only 36 years before the Munich Olympics—some of the disgrace that the 1936 games brought to the Olympic movement was very much going to be laid to rest. We had a modern Munich—a modern Bavarian city—and an outward-looking West Germany. It was a time to remember the past but also—rightly—a time to look to the future. Of course, all of that hope was shattered by the Palestinian terrorism and the bitter irony of young and hopeful Israeli Jews perishing on German soil.

The Olympic games are precisely the right occasion to remember and commemorate the events of 1972. I fear that the IOC may have felt that to do so would be too sensitive for Arab nations, especially in view of the much-vaunted so-called Arab spring of the past 18 months or so. It is particularly ironic that the Black September terrorists were initially funded out of Egypt, bringing Yasser Arafat, among others, to international attention.

I used the term “the so-called Arab spring” advisedly. There has been a huge amount of naivety from western Governments, including at times our own Government, about what has happened and what is currently happening in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. Ms Dorries, I hope you will forgive me if I say a few words about these issues.

It seems to me that in planning the 9/11 attacks, which took place 11 years ago next week, Osama bin Laden was realistic. His hope was not to bring the US down, or to bring it to its knees. It was to show the populations in the Arab world that the mighty US was not as invincible as many people thought and to encourage uprisings against US-backed leaders. To that extent, I fear that—a decade or so on from bin Laden’s terrible work on 9/11—the so-called Arab spring has not led to some great rush to democracy but has become little more than a power-play against western-backed leaders, bringing forth what are often more aggressive and far more violent regimes.

We are at a very early stage of all of this and, as I have said, there has been a lot of naivety about what is coming into play. It is happening in Egypt and Libya. We are seeing what is happening—before our very eyes—in Syria. I just say that, as we commemorate the events of

1972, some people may accuse us of talking about just one section of world humanity, the Jewish population. My worry about what is happening out in the Arab world today is that there are Christian populations that have been there for many years; in Syria, there have been Christian populations for virtually 2,000 years. St Paul himself started promulgating Christianity in the first few decades after the death of Christ in territory that is now modern-day Syria. That population of some two million Christian people in Syria is under immense threat. Ironically—because that population has not been under any threat whatsoever under the Assad regime—it is the so-called Free Syrian Army and elements of that rag-tag group that are proving a great threat to the Christian population of Syria.

We should not forget the 9 million Coptic Christians living in Egypt either. My fear about the great upheaval in that part of the world is that, within a decade or so, many of those Christians will have to go into exile from their homelands, which, as I say, have in many cases been their home for virtually 2,000 years.

It is important that we look at this issue in the context of what is going on in the Arab world. As I say, there are elements in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Egypt that all of us would support, but there are also elements that are a far greater danger to the stability that we would all like to see in the region in future. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East for securing this apposite debate. It is regrettable that the IOC has sought to put elements of political correctness before a proper commemoration of one of the darkest days of the Olympic movement. As my hon. Friend rightly said, we should all celebrate a wonderful London Olympiad and a wonderful London Paralympic games that still has another five or six days to run, but it is also right that we should take this opportunity to commemorate and remember the terrible events that took place exactly four decades ago today.