Palestinians stress peace at memorial

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ATLANTA (JTA) — The two olive-skinned men looked comfortable in the crowd alongside dozens of other Middle Easterners.

But these visitors, wearing Palestine Olympic Committee lapel pins, were believed to be the first Palestinians to ever appear at a memorial ceremony for the Israelis slain at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

"All human beings all around the world are against what happened in Munich," said Rabi H. Al Turk, deputy director of the Palestine Olympic Committee, in an interview after the ceremony. "All the Palestinians, especially sportspeople, are against this."

During the emotional ceremony, held at the Atlanta Jewish Federation Selig Center, the Palestinians joined standing ovations after two children of the murdered athletes spoke.

Later, Al Turk approached Rachel Romano, daughter of a Munich terror victim. He looked into her eyes, paused, kissed her on the forehead and walked away.

"I was thinking of it brotherly and with humanity," Al Turk said after the ceremony.

As Al Turk spoke, Palestine Olympic Committee delegation head Muamna Bississo stood at his side. The two had been invited by the Atlanta Jewish Federation, as had representatives of the other 196 national Olympic committees.

Jews at the event voiced mixed feelings about seeing the Palestinians.

"Having the Palestinians here is important. It helps bring closure," said Steve Goldberg.

"I don't have anything to say to them," said Rahamim Kaduri, an Israeli weightlifting referee.

Yuval Higger, a sports scientist in Israel, had been coached by some of the Israelis killed in Munich.

"We should not forget, but we should look forward to the future, even if we miss one heartbeat for a moment because [the Palestinians] are here," he said. "It's emotional, but [Yitzhak] Rabin shook hands with [Yasser] Arafat and I'm sure that Arafat has more blood on his hands than these two persons."