Reply to Stephen Kinzer on RFK’s assassination

Stephen Kinzer writes in the Guardian.

Sirhan was not simply a “Jordanian citizen”, as he was called at the time. He was an embittered Palestinian who had been born in 1944 to a Christian family in Jerusalem. During the war that broke out when he was four years old, Jewish insurgents seized his house, and his family was forced to flee. He was nearly killed in an Irgun bombing at the Damascus Gate, and witnessed other violent attacks that deeply traumatised him.

As a young refugee, Sirhan attended a school where teachers exhorted students to struggle for Palestinian rights. Later his family moved to California, and he was there when Israel seized East Jerusalem and other Arab territories in the Six-Day War of 1967. He told at a friend that he believed Fatah was justified in using terror to oppose Israeli rule.

During the 1968 presidential campaign, Sirhan came to identify Robert Kennedy, who he had originally supported, as a friend of Israel. Three weeks before committing his crime, he watched a documentary about Kennedy’s involvement with Israel on CBS television. Soon afterward he heard a radio tape of Kennedy telling an audience at a Los Angeles synagogue that he would maintain “clear and compelling” support for Israel. After hearing it, a relative later testified, Sirhan ran from the room with “his hands on his ears, and almost weeping”.

Sirhan timed his attack on Kennedy to coincide with the first anniversary of the opening of the Six-Day War. At his trial, he sought several times to place his crime in the Palestinian context. “When you move a whole country, a whole people, bodily from their own homes, from their land, from their business,” he said, “that is completely wrong … . That burned the hell out of me.” Few Americans had any idea what he was talking about.

Kinzer concludes that Sirhan Sirhan’s murder of Bobby Kennedy was the first blowback against America from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. He places the cause of the murder directly at the feet of America’s and RFK’s support for Israel. But what he mentions, yet ignores in his conclusion, is the part that Palestian propaganda had to play in it.

Review this.

When news of Sirhan’s background was flashed back to the Arab world after he killed Kennedy, many people there instinctively understood what had happened. They recognised the crime as a horrific expression of the violent frustration that young Palestinians were beginning to feel. […]

and this.

As a young refugee, Sirhan attended a school where teachers exhorted students to struggle for Palestinian rights.

Though Kinzer doesn’t say it, the English word “struggle” is often substituted for the Arabic word “jihad.” Even though a Sirhan Sirhan was raised a Maronite christian definitely taught to wage jihad Palestinians have been teaching their children to hate and desire to kill Jews for 50 years now. Is it any wonder that the first generation of Palestinians in exile should have been infected by the Judenhass? They were affected by the war, and all wars are overwhelming, shattering, horrible experiences. Civilians caught up in war are understandably traumatized by them and their resulting prejudices and hatreds are understandable. But the hatred of Palestinians for Jews and Americans is something else. It is a sore spot intentionally rubbed raw and self-infected with poison. Because of that, it cannot be blamed on anyone other than the Palestinians themselves.

Related: We shouted out, who killed the Kennedys

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