A 24-year-old Jerusalem-born Jordanian Arab student who was described as intensely interested in politics, has been identified and is being held as the assailant who shot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in the Hotel Ambassador here early this morning. American and Israeli Jews, as well as Jews around the world, joined in the outpouring of grief and expressions of shock and disbelief over the shooting. Many organizations issued statements with these sentiments. There were prayers in many synagogues for Mr. Kennedy’s recovery and hopes that he would be able to resume a normal, healthy life.
ARRESTED MAN WAS ACTIVE IN ARAB STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS
The suspect, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, was born in Jerusalem on March 18, 1944, while the city was under British Mandate rule. He came to the United States on a Jordanian passport and was admitted as a permanent resident at New York City on Jan, 12, 1957. Police established that Sirhan was a student at Pasadena State College and was active in anti-Israel agitation of the Organization of Arab Students there. The fact that he had in his possession four $100 bills and a schedule of Mr. Kennedy’s June speaking engagements gave rise to suspicion that the shooting might have been organized as an Arab conspiracy. But in Washington, Attorney General Ramsey Clark said that preliminary investigation had not turned up any evidence of the existence of a conspiracy.
Sirhan, who is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail on six counts of assault with intent to murder, is one of five brothers. One of them named Adel, with whom he reportedly lived, was said to be so prejudiced against Jews that when he discovered last week that he was working for Jews, he quit his job.
(In Washington, members of Congress speculated that the first anniversary of the Six-Day War and Mr. Kennedy’s long-standing pro-Israel views motivated the assassination attempt.) The Arab gunman may also have been motivated by the Israeli-Jordan battle yesterday as well as the first anniversary of the Six-Day War, It was indicated. A witness to the shooting, Marcus McBroom, was reported to have quoted Sirhan as stating immediately after firing the shots that “I did it for my country (apparently meaning the State of Jordan). I love my country.”
A neighbor in Pasadena, Cal., where Sirhan lived, said that he hated Mr. Kennedy, contender for the Democratic Presidential nomination, because he is rich, and “is a collaborator with Jews.”
ARAB PROPAGANDIST SAYS ACT REFLECTS ‘POLITICAL FRUSTRATION’
In New York, Dr. M.T. Mehdi, secretary of an Arab propaganda group, the Action Committee on American-Arab Relations, told the press that Sirhan’s act “reflects the frustrations of many Arabs with American politicians who have sold the Arabs of Palestine to the American Jewish voters.” He said that Sirhan “may have been inflamed” by pro-Israel statements made in recent days by Mr. Kennedy. Last Saturday, in a television debate with Sen. Eugene McCarthy, Minnesota Democrat who is a Presidential nomination contender, Mr. Kennedy urged that the U.S. send 50 Phantom jet fighters to Israel.
Dr. Mehdi declared that “it is this disrespect for the human Arab person which brings about this violence.” Speaking for the group he heads. Dr. Mehdi said. “We condemn the fact that Sen. Kennedy kowtowed to Zionist pressure to the detriment of American interests in the Middle East, as we condemn the act of Mr. Sirhan.”
The Israel Embassy in Washington conveyed personal messages to Mrs. Ethel Kennedy, the New York Democrat’s wife from Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Foreign Minister Abba Eban. Eshkol said, “In the hours of anxiety and struggle for Sen. Robert Kennedy’s life, my heartfelt prayers and wishes for his speedy recovery join those of countless others throughout the world. Only a few short months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting him and was greatly impressed by his intellectual alacrity and burning desire to serve his nation and mankind. May he soon be fully restored to his family.”
A cable signed by Mr. Eban and his wife Suzy said “all our thoughts are with you in this hour of anguish.” Maj. Gen. Itzhak Rabin, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, wired Mrs. Kennedy: “I wish to extend to you and your family our sense of shock and our fervent prayers for the complete recovery” of the Senator.
Commenting on the shooting, Morris B, Abram, president of the American Jewish Committee and president-designate of Brandeis University said: “As we join the world in praying for the recovery of Sen. Kennedy, we urge that all Americans confront themselves with the meanings of hatred and violence..We must dedicate ourselves more than ever to the proposition that peaceful expression of difference must be allowed to prevail. If we permit ourselves to allow hate to spread unchecked into violence, we endanger nothing less than our democracy and freedom.”
Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (Reform), called for immediate legislation “which will not only severely limit sale of arms to private citizens, but which will go further and follow the British precedent by having American citizens turn in their arms.” He said “America cannot pose as a society of peaceful intent when its citizenry acts as though it can gun its way through frustrations and disagreements.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.