With all the attention given to the 40th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination on June 5, let’s remember one thing. It wasn’t you and me that killed the Kennedys, or at least it wasn’t me. A pair of leftists killed the Kennedys: Lee Harvey Oswald, a defector to the Soviet Union and a "Fair Play for Cuba" guy; and Sirhan Sirhan, a West Bank immigrant who wanted fair play for Palestinians.
Go through The New York Times archives, even the archives of most Jewish newspapers, and you’ll find more references to Yigal Amir being Orthodox than you will to Sirhan being Palestinian. That
is even though newspapers have had an additional 26 years to write about Sirhan than about Amir, and even though you’d think American media would be more curious about a Kennedy assassination than an Israeli one.
Sirhan killed Kennedy on June 5, 1968, exactly the first anniversary of the Six-Day War, because Sirhan thought Kennedy was unsympathetic to the Final Solution plotted by eight Arab nations one June earlier. And so, this Palestinian terrorist arranged a Final Solution for Kennedy.
Sirhan said as much in 1968, and he said so again in a televised interview with David Frost in 1989.
Sirhan was not just anti-Zionist, he was anti-Semitic. Evan Thomas, in his 2000 book, "Robert Kennedy: A Life," reports that as the race for the 1968 California primary was drawing to a close, Sirhan, "who had seen an earlier TV report of Kennedy wearing a yarmulke outside a synagogue, bought a box of ammunition for his .22-caliber pistol."
Kennedy putting on a yarmulke was the final straw for Sirhan.
And yet, the Boston Globe (June 5) observed that in last year’s film "Bobby," suspicion was cast almost everywhere except Arab terrorists such as Sirhan.
And yet, Steven M. Gillon, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, was quoted in The Globe saying, Sirhan "was a Middle Eastern version of Lee Harvey Oswald. He fit the profile of a lone gunman who wants to become famous by shooting a famous person rather than having a political ideology he wanted to advance."
When a politically active leftist kills a Kennedy, we’re told the assassin was a "lone gunman."
When a lone gunman kills Yitzchak Rabin, we’re told the assassin was Orthodox.
Most Jews have been drilled to believe that Amir embodied and embraced all the hopes and darkest dreams of Orthodoxy, but the fact remains that Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz declared that there is "no proof" that incitement led to Rabin’s murder. You could look it up in Yediot Achronot (Aug. 10, 2005).
Did a handful of crank rabbis "curse" Rabin before he died? Sure. But if listening to deranged sermons is enough to twist an intelligent congregant’s mind then we should be more afraid of some American leaders than we already are.
Amir was a law student at Bar-Ilan University who had rational political grievances that he sought to avenge irrationally. Sick as he was, Amir didn’t need back-of-the-shul voodoo to conclude that if the many exploding buses that came after Oslo were the price we had to pay for peace, as Rabin often said, well, Rabin could pay his own price for the exploding buses.
Amir was exposed to bitterness and threats against the prime minister from a rabbi or two, but no more so than Oswald was exposed to bitterness and threats from Communists who bragged "we will bury you," and Sirhan from Arabs who declared Israel’s birth to be a satanic "catastrophe" worthy of death.
The amnesia about Sirhan was exemplified by Mike Lupica in his memoriam to ABC broadcaster Jim McKay in the Daily News (June 8). Lupica wrote that McKay "will be remembered best for Munich in 1972 and what was really the beginning of terrorism … the murder of Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village by the Black September group."
No, the killing of Kennedy by a Palestinian terrorist was "really the beginning of terrorism," for Americans, anyway, four years before Munich.
According to the Globe, the RFK assassination "is widely remembered as part of the wrenching domestic turbulence of the 1960s. But some scholars are beginning to see it as something quite different yet no less significant: America’s first taste of the political violence of the Middle East."
Forty years later, and "scholars" are only "beginning to see it" for the Palestinian terrorism it was.
The Globe pointed out, "When Hillary Clinton raised the subject" of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination several weeks ago, "much of the outrage from her opponents and the media derived from the presumed analogy to the safety of Barack Obama," indicating the continuing ignorance of what happened to Kennedy.
The "Abraham, Martin and John" presumption, propagated across the board in the media, is that Obama would be targeted by racists on the right. The more precise analogy would be that an assassin in 2008, God forbid, could be a Sirhan-like terrorist who conceivably could be angered by anything from Obama’s distancing himself from his Islamic father, to Obama’s persistent attempts to prove to Jewish voters that he is not an isolationist when it comes to Israel’s security, and that he’d be thoroughly supportive of Israel. Kennedy spent considerable time with Jewish voters distancing himself from his own father, who was isolationist and pro-German prior to World War II, trying to convince Jewish voters that he was thoroughly supportive of Israel.
Of course, London’s Guardian (June 13) figured out that if we can blame Kennedy’s death on Palestinian terrorism, then we can blame everything on Israel: Sirhan "was an embittered Palestinian … 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 traumatized him … If Israel had never come into existence, or if the United States had not supported it, or if Kennedy had not reaffirmed that support, Sirhan would probably never have pulled his trigger." No Israel, no Kennedy assassination. This fear of being blamed, some say, is why most American Jewish leaders never forced the issue.
Sirhan might have been the only gunman who shot Kennedy, but he was not a "lone gunman." He was the first Arab terrorist on American soil but hardly the last. There are now several thousand dead Americans, many of them Jews, from Meir Kahane in a Manhattan ballroom to Andrew Zucker in the World Trade Center to Pamela Waechter in Seattle, who in death remind us that something changed in America, June 5, 1968, just moments after midnight.
No one doubts that the clock is ready to strike 13, ticking even as you read this.