RFK in Palestine
Robert F. Kennedy, the 40th anniversary of whose assasination we will mark soon, was once a 22 year old reporter for the Boston Post. In 1948 he visited Palestine. Here are his reports of the situation as he saw them. The most striking thing about RFK's accounts is how different in tone and detail they are from the remade history to which we have been accustomed. The Jewish fanaticism; the Arab hatred and suspicion; British duplicity. All are in these old, nearly forgotten dispatches which should speak for themselves.
I have no intention of summarizing the dispatches. They are best read in the original at the link. But I will remark that the events RFK describes happened in the immediate aftermath of World War 2. The shadow of those dark events spread itself over everything. Expectations among both Jews and Arabs for a reward from Britain for their support of Empire causes. The desperation of men recently escaped from the the clutches of the concentration camp. It was a tour through a cauldron of hatreds that only the aftermath of a disintegrating empire could bring. And the British empire was disintegrating. Maybe, having been disillusioned by the hatred and duplicity all around him, RFK was struck by a strange mood of wistfulness. He inserts this strange monologue into his narrative seemingly out of the blue.
Having been out of the United States for more than two months at this time of writing, I notice myself more and more conscious of the great heritage and birthright to which we as United States citizens are heirs and which we have the duty to preserve. A force motivating my writing this paper is that I believe we have failed in this duty or are in great jeopardy of doing so. The failure is due chiefly to our inability to get the true facts of the policy in which we are partners in Palestine.
It was a time before the incessant din of propaganda has since convinced Americans that evil was exclusively Made in the USA. History that is ostensibly written to enlighten is often in practice written to deceive. The most common use of history is to make us misremember the past. What we believe happened, as well as what we believed about RFK may have nothing to do with how things were. Reading his contemporaneous reports is like visiting a country we never knew existed and meeting a man who died twice; once at the hands of Sirhan Sirhan and again by the knife of popular culture. Twenty years after Kennedy left Palestine, Palestine came to him in a Los Angeles hotel.
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