LOS ANGELES (Mar. 5)
Sirhan B. Sirhan, the 24-year-old Jordanian immigrant who has admitted the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, cursed the “God-damned Zionists” of America from the witness stand yesterday. He accused them of having sent “$370 million to Israel tax-free” while there was unemployment and hunger in this country and at a time when President Johnson was bringing home soldiers and urging Americans to stay home in order to save dollars. He said that when provoked he could kill Lyndon Johnson, Arthur J. Goldberg or anyone else supporting the Israeli cause.
The outburst came during young Sirhan’s second day on the witness stand in his own defense. Chief Defense Counsel Grant B. Cooper permitted him to vent his rage to substantiate the defense claim that Sirhan’s passion about the occupation of his homeland by Israel led to the fatal shooting of Sen. Kennedy in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen last June 5.
Sirhan, who began by answering counsel Cooper’s questions quietly, launched into an emotional tirade when asked about his reaction to events in the Middle East. ” I wanted a place of my own where the people spoke my own language, where they ate my own food, where they shared my own politics, where I could have something I could identify with as a Palestinian and as an Arab.” he said. He claimed he had admired the late Sen. Kennedy until he saw him on television helping the Israelis celebrate their independence and became so enraged he wanted to kill him. “You must remember, sir,” he said to his attorney, “Zionism Is more inimical to me than Communism Is to you.” He said he heard a radio announcement that Sen. Kennedy had formally committed himself to sending 50 Phantom jet fighter-bombers to Israel. “I recognized that Robert F. Kennedy was not the good guy he was made out to be,” Sirhan said.
The young Arab also testified that he was enraged by a magazine photograph of jubilant Israeli troops on the banks of the Suez Canal in June, 1967. “If I saw those guys (the soldiers) in person I would have killed them,” he said, “because they were the winners, they could tell Nasser what to do.” Sirhan said that he read “everything I could get my hands on” pertaining to the Middle East conflict, mainly material put out by the Arab Information Center, a propaganda agency supported by the Arab League, as well as the B’nai B’rith Messenger, a Jewish weekly published in Los Angeles. “I figured the best way to know what the Zionists are up to is to read what they say,” he told Mr. Cooper. He accused American Zionists of “brainwashing” the American public into believing that the Arabs were about to push Israel into the sea when the opposite was true. “Where is the justice involved sir?” he asked his defense counsel, “where is the love of the underdog. Israel is not the underdog in the Middle East, the Palestinians are. That burned the hell out of me.”