Los Angeles Arabs Reported Nervous, Sympathetic with Sirhan’s Anti-zionism

The Arab community on the West Coast is nervous over possible reprisals in the aftermath of the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and has “gone into hiding” ever since it was learned that the accused gunman is an Arab, Sirhan Sirhan, the Washington Post reported from Los Angeles today. According to Post reporter George Larduer, there is, at the same time among Los Angeles’ 25,000 Arab-Americans, a “widespread rationalization, even sympathy, for the murder for which Sirhan stands indicted. His anti-Zionism is widely shared,” Larduer wrote and “time and again it is argued that the real villain is ‘international Zionism’ and secondarily, Kennedy’s support of jet fighters for Israel.” Mr. Larduer said that “not a few of the Arab-American organizations show the same sort of persecution complex so widely attributed to Sirhan. It also makes them candidates for the overtures of the American far right and white racists.”

The Post report named four Arab-American organizations that had been active before the assassination. They are the United American Arab Congress, formed after Israel’s victory in the June, 1967, Six-Day War “to help raise funds for Arab refugees and to combat ‘support of Zionism by the American press’; the American Arab Citizens Council; the Americans (of Lebanese-Syrian ancestry) for America; and the Arabic Society of Americanists. The United American Arab Congress has likened Israel to “Nazi Germany” and “Fascist Japan” in its propaganda, Mr. Larduer reported. “Sirhan does not appear to have been a member of any of the Arabic organizations in the city,” he said, but “according to one report, Sirhan and several of his brothers attended meetings of the so-called ‘American Arabs’ which was allegedly a youth auxilliary of the UAAC.”

According to the Post report, the Arab community in Los Angeles has been the target of a few minor incidents by cranks since the assassination. But Sirhan’s family is under tight security guard. Mr. Larduer said it was an open question how successful the Arab organizations have been in resisting overtures from the extreme right. “One UAAC newsletter last summer warned against ‘white racist groups…coming out in support of the Arabs’ and cautioned its members against aligning themselves with ‘hatemongers,’” Larduer said.

The Larduer report on the plight of West Coast Arab-Americans followed by two days an anti-Israel article by the Washington Post’s senior White House correspondent Chalmers M. Roberts, who charged that Israelis were trying “to take political advantage of the fact that a Jordanian-born man is accused of killing Senator Kennedy.” Mr. Roberts, who is close to both President Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, claimed in his story that “Israelis and their more passionate American supporters are trying to nail down a policy of firm American support” for Israel in an election year. He also chastised “cynical American politicians (who) long have noted that there are no Arab votes of consequence in this nation whereas the much sought after Jewish vote and financial support is often of critical importance in such cities as New York and Los Angeles.” Observers here saw the Roberts article as an attempt to generate support for Administration policy which is currently directed toward improving American relations with the Arab states. Administration sources have expressed concern lest Sen. Kennedy’s assassination arouse anti-Arab feelings in the United States and embarrass these attempts.

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