June 16, 2008

Remember Sirhan Sirhan?

I know I know, I'm a week late with this one but I didn't read much about this last week. I did hear something on Radio 4 about the Robert Kennedy assassination but that was it. Of course there would have been more coverage in America about the killing of a US presidential hopeful than there was in the UK so let that be my excuse. I actually remember the killing of Bobby Kennedy when it happened. I doubt if I saw it live but I remember seeing it on tv back in 1968. I remember how they described the killer as a "Jordanian". Years later I assumed that they were simply keeping the word "Palestinian" out of the media's and therefore the public's vocabulary.

Anyway, I wouldn't normally be too bothered with this but for
Ben White blogging the Boston Globe seeking a scholars' opinions on what happened those 40 years ago and why. One such scholar was Alan Dershowitz (uh oh!).
"I thought of it as an act of violence motivated by hatred of Israel and of anybody who supported Israel," said Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor who had worked on Kennedy's campaign as a volunteer adviser on gun-control policy. "It was in some ways the beginning of Islamic terrorism in America. It was the first shot. A lot of us didn't recognize it at the time."
It is interesting that more wasn't made of the background and the motivation of Sirhan Sirhan and you can look at the rest of the article to see the inaction of for example the ADL over that. But look at these letters to the Globe following Dershowitz's "analysis".

I WAS dismayed that Alan Dershowitz referred to Sirhan Sirhan's assassination of Robert F. Kennedy as the "beginning of Islamic terrorism in America" ("Slaying gave US a first taste of Mideast terror," Page A1, June 5).

Sirhan, a Christian Palestinian immigrant, said he was angry at Kennedy because he supported Israel in the 1967 war over the rights of the Palestinians. This was an instance of one Christian killing another Christian for political, not religious, reasons.

Why does Dershowitz conflate Palestinian with Islamic, other than to spread fear of Muslims? I think it is for a similar reason that he equates Israel with Judaism. Therefore, any criticism of Israel's policies toward Palestinians can be denounced as anti-Semitic.

MARILYN LEVIN
Arlington

ATTEMPTS TO spin the tragic assassination of Robert Kennedy as a prelude to today's problems between the United States and the Middle East collapse under the weight of the facts.

Alan Dershowitz's suggestion that a 40-year-old crime committed by a lone gunman - a Christian Arab who moved to the United States at age 12 - could be plausibly counted as "the beginning of Islamic terrorism in America" strains credulity. This is as absurd as Ayman al-Zawahiri's claim that the modern state of Israel is a direct extension of the medieval Crusades. Such illogical readings of the past do nothing to advance the mutual understanding between peoples that is so urgently required in today's world.

DARRYL LI
Cambridge

What is very strange about Dershowitz's scholarly view on islamist terror by a Christian is that the article mentions that Sirhan Sirhan was a Christian. Why didn't the writer correct Dershowitz? Why did the writer run his quote at all? It's a funny old globe.

I don't fully agree with the second letter. Maybe zionism isn't a direct extension of the crusades but it is a bit of a re-run.

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