Rings of Ire: The Minister Who Observed Her Own Munich Moment of Silence

Sports Minister Limor Livnat regales with her heroic exploits, after failing to convince the Olympic Committee to honor the victims of the Munich massacre.

"Despite all the appeals from parliaments and heads of state, including Obama, Romney and Clinton, the heads of the International Olympic Committee decided not to honor this request to stand for a minute's silence during the opening ceremony. Therefore, I think it is fitting that I make this protest in the name of the State of Israel. I did it by standing in the section of the sports ministers. I stood up, I bowed my head. I wore a black band on my left arm, which was very noticeable. It was aimed at precisely when [IOC President Jacques] Rogge was speaking.

"It was very crowded in the gallery, and anyone who wanted to come over to me and say he was supportive - it was extremely difficult for him to get to me. Even so, there were a very few around me who did express support. We mentioned the massacre of the 11. The terrible massacre that took place. Yesterday the Syrian delegation marched here, and no one uttered a peep. Nothing. People are being slaughtered by the regime and no one voices so much as a chirp in protest. It's business as usual for the world, like nothing happened. So everything here is sheer hypocrisy.

"Because it is Shabbat here, and I don't want to desecrate the Sabbath in an event of this kind, and it is also Tisha B'Av, I walked during the morning to the only place that is walking distance here, which is the swimming complex. Unfortunately, they did not succeed in making it to the finals, more's the pity. Tomorrow night I am already returning to Israel, and I will return here again for the commemoration of the 11, which will be held at the [Israeli] Embassy on August 6."

The above text is the transcript of a radio interview with Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat at the beginning of the week. The only reason to get on its case is that it expresses, almost innocently, something of the mentality that is dominant in Israel today: a mentality of prideful defiance that carries on its back the hunch of the victim, lives in the past and views ceremony and symbol as be-all and end-all.

"A minute's silence" - Gymnast Valeriia Maksiuta's fall from the uneven bars? Shahar Peer's loss to Maria Sharapova in tennis? The judoka who was ousted in the first round? The swimmers who at least didn't drown in the pool? All petty trivialities. Our true, authentic representative in the Olympics is "a minute's silence," in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack at the Munich Games. A minute, which to our regret - despite all the laborious efforts and everything invested in it for years upon years - not only did not make it into the opening ceremony, but was not even recognized as an official Olympic event.

The sports minister, who in her long term of office has already managed to strengthen the hands of no few athletes and even help them have their photo taken as she stood with them on the podium, is here describing her heroic exploits at the Olympic Games: How, thanks to flexibility, chutzpah and true grit, she was able to bypass the edict of destruction which a paritz goy issued against "a minute's silence" - a minute which, with the passing of the years, has become more important to us than all the competitions and sports events. Almost in the Pollard category. Almost like our being recognized as the state of the Jewish people.

"Despite all the appeals from parliaments" - The refusal of the IOC to mention in any form the attack at Munich is indeed puzzling and rankling. Still, there is something pathetic and humiliating in the sheer obsessive lobbying effort to impose on world leaders ceremonial mourning customs aimed only at underscoring our wretchedness and victimization, instead of our strength and excellence. Remember the classic skit by the Cameric Five in which an Israeli lobbyist tries to get a referee in a sports event to give the team breaks on the pretext that "the Jewish people have suffered enough"? We've made progress since then: We no longer demand from the world breaks and concessions for living athletes, but a minyan for Kaddish.

"I did it by standing" - As the only competitor in this field, and as befits someone who has accumulated no little seniority as sports minister, it's not surprising that Livnat's narrative has become similar to that of the athletes themselves in describing their achievements or failures: how she got up, how she bowed her head, how she wore a black band, how she felt a sense of mission (compare Valeriia Maksiuta's remarks: "I worked very hard and gave my all, but it didn't work out"; or Shahar Peer: "I fought to the last minute, but it didn't work out").

"It's business as usual for the world ... sheer hypocrisy" - Fittingly, and appropriately for a minister in the Netanyahu government, we have here a text that almost takes pleasure in wallowing in a feeling of alienation, in bitterness toward the world and all it contains, in scolding self-righteousness, in conscious isolationism - even during an event whose goal is fraternity and sharing. On the one hand, there is the hypocritical, anti-Semitic "world"; and on the other, "us." (But wherein lies the "hypocrisy"? Because there was not a minute's silence for those killed in Syria? Because the audience did not rise to cheer former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy's ruling that the territories are not occupied?)

"Because it is Shabbat here, and I don't want to desecrate the Sabbath ... and also Tisha B'Av" - One commandment elicits another. Not only do we have a proud Jewish woman here, but a veritable saint: "Shomeres shabbos," to quote the Coen Brothers, "shomeres fucking shabbos." That is, unlike her custom in Israel. "I walked during the morning to the only place that is walking distance here," the sports minister relates, reiterating the verb "to walk." Maybe so the religiously observant in Likud will hear; maybe also as a gesture to the veteran marathon walker Shaul Ladani.

"They did not succeed" - If it's a loss it's "they"; if it's a win it's "we."

"I will return here again for the commemoration" - And they thought they had won, thought they had been able to oust "the minute's silence," erase and nullify the only consolation remaining to us, and one that comes with a trip abroad, too. They still don't know who they're messing with. You ain't seen nothing yet. The minute's silence will be back, big-time.