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Sirhan Sirhan: From Lutheran Schoolboy to Palestinian Assassin February 9, 2016

Posted by usdiaspora in 1968 Presidential Race, Anti-Semitism, Hate Crime, Terrorism, US Politics.
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Sirhan SirhanTuesday, February 9th, in California, 71-year-old Jordanian/Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan was once again (for the 15th time since his life sentence began) denied parole.[1]  This man, of Lutheran faith, was born on 19 March 1944 to a family from Taibeh, Jordan, then making their home in the Jewish homeland (then still known under its British Mandate name of “Palestine”) following an expulsion of rabblerousers by the Jordanian crown. His teachers at the Luther School were vehemently pro-PLO and instilled anti-Semitic hate doctrines into Sirhan as a young boy.[2]

In 1951, King Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated. According to his father Bishara Sirhan, 7-year-old Sirhan was overjoyed by the assassination a man the young boy viewed as a traitor to the PLO cause and became fascinated with studying the details of the event.[3]

On 5 June 1968, Sirhan Sirhan, then 24 years of age, shot and killed 42-year-old New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.  Kennedy had just won the California Democratic Primary election when Sirhan, outraged by RFK’s support for Israel, assassinated him.  RFK had called for ending U.S. monetary or military support to any nation which was engaging against Israel militarily (which at that time included all of the Arab nations).[4] His mother would later defend his actions, stating “What he did, he did for his (Palestinian) country!”[5] His father, likewise, came to his defense, stating, “I do not regret his death as Kennedy the American politician who attempted to gain the presidential election by his aggressive propaganda against the Arab people of Palestine.”[6]

Sirhan was caught gun-in-hand and arrested, being initially sentenced to death. In 1972, however, the U.S. Supreme Court briefly outlawed the death penalty, causing his death sentence to be altered to a life sentence in Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga.[7]  In 2013, he was relocated from his original prison to Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego.[8]

On 2 March 1973, Black September terrorists abducted Cleo Noel, the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and demanded the release of Sirhan Sirhan. Sirhan was not released at that time, but this event established Sirhan as being connected with Palestinian terrorism.[9]

91-year-old Paul Schrade, an RFK adviser who was one of the six men shot in the 1968 incident, appeared at the parole hearing to voice his forgiveness of Sirhan.  “I forgive you for shooting me,” Schrade told Sirhan. “I should have been here long ago and that’s why I feel guilty for not being here to help you and to help me.”[10]

Mel Ayton makes a poignant observation:

Populations are not culturally prone to hatred – they are educated toward it as studies of Nazi Germany show. The anti – semitism inculcated in German children in the 1930s and 40s remained with them into their old age and the West German government’s post-war attempts to promote anti-fascism had no effect on those who grew up during the Third Reich.

The propaganda used by Palestinians had no less an effect on the younger generations of children from the 1940s to the present day. From an early age Sirhan had been taught by educators, family members and friends that the Jews were ‘treacherous’, ‘an evil enemy’ and it was his ‘duty’ to rid Jews from Palestine. Sirhan’s generation was taught to hate, despise and fear Jews, to believe that it was not only right for every self-respecting Arab to fight the Jewish state and that it was just and desirable to destroy it.[11]

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  1. Corkey Siemaszko, “Robert Kennedy Killer Sirhan Sirhan Denied Parole – Again,” NBC News (9 Feb 2016).  Read it online.
  2. Mel Ayton, The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2007), chapter 3.
  3. Bishara Sirhan, personal correspondence.
  4. Ayton, op. cit., chapter 2.
  5. Mary Sirhan; in trial transcripts, U.S. v. Sirhan.
  6. Bishara Sirhan, personal correspondence.
  7. Linda Deutsch, “Sirhan Sirhan Denied Parole in RFK Killing,” Associated Press (2 Mar 2011).  Read it online.
  8. Siemaszko, op. cit.
  9. Barry Rubin & Judith Colp Rubin, Chronologies of Modern Terrorism (London: Routledge, 2015), 188-9.
  10. Siemaszko, op. cit.
  11. Mel Ayton, “Sirhan was an ‘Unaffiliated’ Terrorist,” Daniel Pipes Middle East Forum (19 May 2006).