Friday, May 30, 2008
Having gaffed yet again by invoking the memory of Robert Kennedy's assassination in a desperate attempt to snatch victory from the Obama jaws of defeat, Hillary Clinton nevertheless reminded us that we are approaching the 40th anniversary of that momentous event that occurred shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968.
The last of the big 3 assassinations -- Robert’s older brother JFK in November of 1963 and Martin Luther King occurring two months before Bobby's -- seemed to provide a tragic coda to a decade that changed the American people and political system forever. Bobby’s murder imbued the 60’s with a fatalism and cynicism that underscored the strife and division brought on by the then raging Vietnam War and the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement. If Camelot’s King Arthur was taken from us in 1963, Bobby’s departure ( as Galahad) heralded the collapse of the castle.
Clearly the heir-apparent to the White House and the standard bearer of the Democratic Party and Progressive America, RFK passed the flag to Hubert Humphrey, the congenial but uncharismatic Sir Sagramore who eventually lost the Presidency later that year to Sir Mordred, Richard Nixon, the final destroyer of the kingdom.
As assassins go, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray, aside from the conspiracy theories so endemic to the last half of the twentieth century, were fathomable and their deeds execrable to all. Unlike President McKinley’s assassin, Leon Frank Czolgosz, the anarchist dabbler, sulfuric acid was not thrown into their coffins in spite of the universal revulsion their acts engendered.
RFK’s murderer, however, is still alive and the motive for his act is very fathomable. And yet, to most Americans, this assassination, while horrible, does not carry with it the same visceral hatred that we associate with James Earl Ray. If anything, the bullet that Sirhan Sirhan fired into Bobby Kennedy’s brain has come to resemble something like a natural disaster to many American progressives, a "tragic" event, ascribable to the dementia of a "troubled" youth. Indeed, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan rapidly faded from memory.
In good health at 64 and residing in isolation at the Corcoran State Prison in California, he has recently been denied parole for the thirteenth time. He has never denied firing the 8 bullets from his .22 caliber revolver that morning, but has suggested, in lieu of life imprisonment, that he be deported to an Arab country in the Middle East where he would lead an exemplary life.
Fifty years of progressive pedagogy has created "Palestinianism", the rightful heir to post-Marxist "wretched of the earth" theory. And Palestinianism forgives a multitude of sins, including, it would seem, the cold-blooded murder of the last, best hope of Camelot.
Following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by Yigal Amir, an observant Jew and member of the right wing political group Eyal, Leah Rabin said,
"I would prefer that my children be Arabs rather than Orthodox Jews."
In a similar vein, following a "condolence" call by Yasir Arafat, she added,
"Having Arafat in my house on his first visit to Israel is a symbol of the wonderful thing that has happened since the handshake on Sept. 13, 1993 in Washington,"
Not wishing to pass up the political opportunity, other left wing Israeli leaders took up the theme of equating Amir's lone act with the entire settler movement in Israel. According to the left, Rabin's murder was not a generalized tragedy, but the collective, premeditated act of a particular segment of Israeli society.
Had RFK been assassinated by an Orthodox right wing Jew as a result of some misperception of his "pro Palestinian" speeches, imagine the obloquies and venom that would have poured forth from the Jewish American left -- from the Michael Lerners, Tom Friedmans and Jeffrey Goldbergs. David Remnick, I have no doubt, in addition to his own philippic, would have enlisted the prose of Jane Kramer and Ian Buruma to apply literary, sulfuric acid to the corpse.
But no such tirades have ever issued from the American Jewish left. "Palestinianism", in its privileged role as the embodiment and heir to Gramscian Marxism, Fanonism and all the accompanying romantic, fantasy-freighted clichés of the Left, has rendered the murderer of the progressive dream as a faceless, proletarian, third world cipher.
Of course, Sirhan Bashir Sirhan was not faceless or motive-less. He knew precisely why he pulled the trigger. RFK was his enemy and the enemy of his people. Sirhan’s father and presumptive teacher, Bishara, said after the assassination:
Fully aware of the date -- one year to the day -- of the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli six day war, Sirhan Sirhan planned to kill RFK for his staunch support of Israel, evinced by many of his speeches during the Democratic primary race in California. At the Neveh Shalom Synagogue Kennedy said, " in Israel -- unlike so many other places in the world -- our commitment is clear and compelling. We are committed to Israel's survival. We are committed to defying any attempt to destroy Israel, whatever the source. And we cannot and must not let that commitment waver."
Police later found news clippings in Sirhan’s pockets documenting Kennedy’s pro-Israel positions. Later, at Sirhan’s trial, a police investigator testified that,
"Sirhan was a self-appointed assassin. He decided that Bobby Kennedy was no good because he was helping the Jews. And he was going to kill him."
Schooled in East Jerusalem in the centuries-old anti-Semitism of Islamic sacred texts and no doubt reciting the familiar "Al Yehud Kelabna" ("The Jews are Our Dogs"), Sirhan Sirhan brought his hatred and intolerance to the United States. According to Mohan Goel, an acquaintance of Sirhan's, "[Sirhan] couldn't understand the Americans, that they let the Jews suck the blood of the nation, and keep putting money in the banks."
In contrast to Mrs. Rabin’s Medea-like invective, most American Jews, to whom RFK represented the last best hope for Progressivism, were either silent on the crime of Sirhan Sirhan, or, like the legendary liberal paradigm (who was to later to fall himself to an assassin’s bullet), Allard K. Lowenstein, New York congressman and then Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to The United Nations Human Rights Commission, signed on to the perennial "second gun" theory, thereby partially exculpating Sirhan Sirhan.
One of Sirhan’s defense lawyers, a Jew, Emile Zola Berman, did his best to present the young man not as a product of Arab hate education but as a someone suffering from "diminished capacity", in effect, not guilty by reason of insanity. It didn’t work. Dr. Philip S. Hicks, a psychiatrist who interviewed the assassin in 1986, said that the assassination stemmed from "political fanaticism rather than psychotic violence."
In the Arab world, Sirhan Sirhan became a cult hero. It is worth noting that the decades following RFK’s assassination witnessed the spread of PLO terrorism out of Israel into the West, culminating in the Munich Olympic massacre of 1972. Just as the recently exposed Mohammed al Dura hoax inspired a generation of killers, perhaps the cult status of Sirhan Sirhan bringing down one of the West’s most liberal leaders emboldened an earlier generation of murderers.
Many of the quotes for this article originated in: Why Sirhan Sirhan Assassinated Robert Kennedy by Mel Ayton
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: The Forgotten Assassin.
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Blogging at Solomonia, Hillel Stavis recalls the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, which occurred 40 years ago this coming Thursday, June 5. As were the rest of us, Stavis was reminded of this event by Hillary Clinton's... Read More