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September 13, 2007 - Image 50

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2007-09-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.







Speak Out,
Jewish Olympians


202 S. THAYER Sr, ANN ARBOR, MI 48104

(734) 763-9047 * judaicstudies umichiedu

Peter Ganong and
Daniel Hemel

Socola gt David Hirsh presents a critical commentary on
Otis to boycott Israeli academics in the United Kingdom.
Hirsh is editor of Engage Online, an electronic forum
opposed to anti-Seriitism and dernonization of Israel.
An evening presentation is scheduled on Michigan State
University's' campus (for details call 517-432-3493)

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September 13 • 2007


n the summer of 1936, a year
after the enactment of the
Nuremberg Laws, the world
turned a blind eye to Nazi Germany's
genocidal intentions as Hitler hosted
the Olympics in Berlin. With next
summer's games set to take place
in Beijing, Jewish and Israeli
athletes have a responsibility to
help ensure that the world does
not make the same mistake.
This time, the Jews are not
the victims. Rather, China's vic-
tims are the 1.2-million Tibetans
who have died as a result of
Beijing's invasion of the previously
independent Buddhist nation. They
are the untold thousands of dis-
sidents and prisoners of conscience
who will be kept out of view in
modern-day gulags while the world's
attention is focused on the action
inside Beijing's ultra-modern sporting
arenas. They are the 400,000 Darfuris
who, according to United Nations esti-
mates, have been killed as a result of
the genocidal campaign waged by the
Beijing-backed Sudanese regime.
China's state oil company owns the
largest stake in the consortium that is
developing Sudan's petroleum indus-
try, and China buys about four-fifths
of all Sudanese oil exports. An esti-
mated 70 percent of the oil profits in
Sudan are spent on a military that lays
waste to Darfuri villages.
To stand by idly while the blood of
others is shed would be un-Jewish.
One Jewish luminary who isn't stay-
ing silent is Steven Spielberg, who has
threatened to resign as artistic adviser
to the games unless China changes
course in Darfur. His demand, he
explained in a letter to Chinese leader
Hu Jintao, stems from his "personal
commitment to do all I can to oppose
Unfortunately, other Jewish leaders
don't seem to share that commitment.
The president of the Israeli Olympic
Committee, Zvi Varshaviak, said that
in light of its experience, Israel "will
continue to act towards keeping poli-

tics outside of sport in general and the
Olympic Games specifically"
Would Varshaviak also have
remained silent in light of the Jewish
experience at Berlin?
We are not proposing a boycott.
Olympic boycotts have been tried
before -- Israel, the United States and
five dozen other countries stayed
away from the 1980 Moscow Games
to protest the Soviet Union's inva-
sion of Afghanistan. But this time,
a boycott might shift attention
away from Beijing when the
goal instead should be to cast a
spotlight squarely on China -- on
its human rights abuses and its
support for genocide.
Indeed, human rights activ-
ists across the globe have teamed up
to brand Beijing 2008 "the Genocide
Olympics." The Genocide Olympics
campaign is a "nightmare" for the
Chinese hosts and their corporate
sponsors, according to Business Week
magazine. But that nightmare pales in
comparison to the daily nightmare of
Darfuris, Tibetans and the democracy
activists in Chinese prisons.
Regardless of whether they are
dressed in the blue-and-white uniform
of Israel, the blue and red of the U.S,
or the blue and yellow of Australia,
athletes can wear the green wrist-
bands that have become the symbol of
the Save Darfur movement worldwide.
When television cameras zoom in on
Jewish athletes, the green bands will
be a reminder of the ruthlessness of
the Beijing regime. And the bands will
be a powerful sign that on the most
important human rights issues facing
the world today, Jews will not remain
on the sidelines.
Seventy-two years after Berlin,
Jewish athletes from Israel and around
the world will have the opportunity to
speak out for justice in the same cir-
cumstances under which other nations
were all too willing to stay silent. If
Jewish athletes take the lead, next
year's Olympic flame will shed light on
the bloodshed that Beijing has carried
on in darkness. I I

Peter Ganong is an intern at the Shalem

Center in Jerusalem and an economics

student at Harvard. Daniel Hemel is a

international relations student at Oxford.

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