Some scholars see the shooting of Robert F. Kennedy as America's first taste of the political violence of the Middle East.
"I thought of it as an act of violence motivated by hatred of Israel and of anybody who supported Israel," said Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor who had worked on Kennedy's campaign as a volunteer adviser. "It was in some ways the beginning of Islamic terrorism in America. It was the first shot. A lot of us didn't recognize it at the time." A year after Kennedy's death, former UN Ambassador Arthur Goldberg - for whom Dershowitz had clerked on the Supreme Court and with whom he shared a fervent Zionism - told Dershowitz that [the Palestinian assassin] Sirhan had identified Goldberg as a potential target, too.
A generation of revelations about Sirhan's motives - and a changed environment in which Americans have come to fear political violence with origins abroad - have drawn out his crime as a prelude to the kidnappings at the Munich Olympics, the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, and the two assaults on the World Trade Center. "Even though it wasn't perceived at the time as an act of political terrorism, on a visceral level - on a subliminal level - the Kennedy assassination planted a seed of concern in Americans about the Palestinian issue and the issue of terrorism," said Michael Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.