- The Washington Times - Monday, September 11, 2000

On Sept. 5, 1972, terrorism shoved athletics brutally aside at the Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. At the end of that one day, 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were dead, murdered in cold blood. So were five of the eight kidnappers from a Palestine terrorist organization, the Black September Movement, and so was one German police officer. The modern Olympic Games, which allowed nations to compete in sports rather than on the battlefield, had itself been hijacked and tainted by blood.
Tonight, television viewers will get an opportunity to revisit the Munich massacre of 1972, in the form of an HBO documentary, "One Day in September." The film won this year's Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, a well-deserved honor for the first to attempt to go behind the scenes of the hostage drama. Producer Arthur Cohn and director Kevin MacDonald even managed to track down the lone surviving member of the Palestinian terrorist team, who lives in hiding in an African nation.
The horrifying events of that day began when eight Palestinian terrorists invaded the Israeli housing compound at the Olympic Village and took hostages, seeking the release of political prisoners held in Israel in return for the athletes. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir flatly rejected the deal. German officials, having rejected an offer of help from Israel, began their own rescue attempts. The first Keystone Kops rescue attempt was done in plain view of television crews, including one from East Germany which broadcast every move to the terrorists. A second rescue attempt led to the final disaster at Fuerstenfeldbruck air base. Fire erupted between the kidnappers and German sharpshooters, who had no radio contact with police or each other and managed to shoot one of their own men. The terrorists responded by using hand grenades to blow up the helicopters carrying the hostages. Not a single hostage survived.
Three of the kidnappers did, however, and were soon traded by Germany to Libya for a kidnapped German plane under rather strange circumstances. It took the German government all of 31 minutes to agree to hand over the murderers. Their televised press conference in Libya, where they were treated as conquering heroes, shows nothing less than the face of evil. Two were soon after killed by the Israeli Mossad. Mr. MacDonald found and interviewed the surviving terrorist, who remains proud of his role in the Munich massacre.
The world has changed and so have the faces of terrorism. Today, new state sponsors and actors have sprung up. Newspaper readers can find their criminal deeds on display every day. The greatest irony of all is that Libya today parades as a mediator and peacemaker. That is one of many reasons why "One Day in September" is worth seeing.

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