On the 40th Anniversary of His Assassination:
Robert Kennedy's 1948 Reports from Palestine helped contribute to his early death
Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, brother of slain U.S. President John F. Kennedy and former U.S. Attorney General, was the leading Democratic candidate for president when he was gunned down at a primary victory celebration in California on June 5, 1968. His Palestinian assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, said he killed Kennedy due to his vocal support for Israel.
Kennedy arrived in a chaotic and dangerous land on the eve of the British departure. Jewish Jerusalem was under Arab siege and Arab armies were pouring into the territory. The British authorities were hampering Jews' efforts to defend themselves.
Kennedy praised the Jews in Palestine. "The Jewish people in Palestine who believe in and have been working toward this national state have become an immensely proud and determined people," Kennedy wrote. "It is already a truly great modern example of the birth of a nation with the primary ingredients of dignity and self-respect."
One of his dispatches was headlined, "Jews Make Up for Lack of Arms with Undying Spirit, Unparalleled Courage." In one of his accounts, Kennedy describes his traveling with Haganah fighters in a convoy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The young reporter was critical of a temporary slippage of the American government's support for Jewish statehood. He feared that the U.S. was shifting towards Britain's negative policies and its aim "to crush" the Zionist cause. "If the American people knew the true facts," Kennedy wrote, "I am certain a more honest and forthright policy would be substituted for the benefit of all."