Last week French prosecutors announced the opening of an enquiry into the circumstances of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's
death following claims made by his widow that he may have been poisoned.
A few days later Israel's State Archives de-classified documents relating to the 1972 Munich massacre
of Israeli athletes at the hands of "Black September,"
an organization founded by Arafat to carry out brazen terror attacks that were not supposed to be linked to Fatah
or to Arafat himself.
The documents released by the State Archives chronicle the drama surrounding the negotiations with the kidnappers in Munich, and particularly the horrible failure of the German security and rescue forces, first to prevent the kidnapping of the Israeli athletes, and then to successfully secure their release. It seems like they have made every mistake in the book.
As a result of the shock over the German helplessness and the condescending attitude of some senior German officials (one of whom had the audacity to explain that the games could not be suspended because "German television does not have anything else to air"), Israel
decided to launch an assassination campaign against PLO terrorists.
mercilessly hunted down anyone whose name was linked to the massacre of the athletes, including Arafat, who managed to dodge the Israeli intelligence agency time and time again, until he finally became the chairman of the Palestinian Authority. Was his mysterious death a belated act of revenge by Mossad? Maybe the investigating judge in Paris will have the answer.
At the time, the affair resulted in a severe crisis in Israel's relations with Germany. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
was vehemently opposed to the release of the documents by the State Archives, claiming the harsh criticism directed at Germany's leadership may damage the relations between the countries.
Eventually, following a six-month long campaign of declassifications requests on behalf of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper and German Der Spiegel, the PM authorized the publication of a few dozen documents, which contained much of the criticism he was trying to keep secret.
Conspiracy theorists in Berlin will certainly make a connection between the release of the documents and the upcoming negotiations regarding Israel's request for aid in building a new "Dolphin"
submarine – the seventh Israel would be receiving from Germany if the deal is finalized.
The release of the documents, quite like the wave of anti-German reports in Israel in the aftermath of the terror attack in Munich, was accompanied by harsh attacks mentioning the Holocaust and Germany's conduct during the affair in the same breath.
There is no doubt that the failure of the heads of the Olympic Committee
and the Bavarian authorities to protect the athletes should be condemned in the strongest terms, and it remains at the core of a public and legal debate in Germany, 40 years on. However, it is important to put this incident, as tragic and scandalous as it was, in the proper historical context.
At the time, all European countries – not only Germany – took a soft, if not a weak approach to the war on terror. Terror was perceived as something from another, Middle Eastern world, which can be kept far from home through dialogue. Actually, Germany (partly due to domestic extreme-leftist terror) took a relatively tough stance against terror and was one of the first countries to cooperate with Israel on the matter.
Any attempt to link the affair to the Holocaust
is baseless. Germany has a historic debt to Israel and the Jewish people which will never be erased, but it has gone to great lengths to significantly reduce it.
Israelis tend to forget the critical contribution Germany made to the country's economy in the first decades after its inception and the fact that it opened our economy to European markets.
Few remember how Germany helped strengthen the IDF and Israel's military resilience through financial aid and arms transfers, as well as by secretly supporting Israel's nuclear project by funneling money towards "desalination" projects (all this according to non-Israel reports of course).
Germany has built six submarines for Israel – mostly with its own money – which carry (according to a recent Der Spiegel report) nuclear missiles and serve as the first line of defense against attempts to destroy the Jewish state.
Germany is also a key intelligence partner, and, due to the historic debt, assists Israel in any way possible and repeatedly forgives the Jewish state for blatant violations of agreements and sovereignty.
On the backdrop of the 40th anniversary of the Munich fiasco, it is important that we also remember Germany's support for Israel.