RUMOR of a JW terrorist (a personal memoir)

by TerryWalstrom 6 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • TerryWalstrom


    (A personal memoir)

    John F. Kennedy's brother, Robert (Bobby) was assassinated in 1968 shortly after winning the California Democratic presidential primary. Kennedy died the next day.

    Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship was eventually convicted for the assassination.

    Bishara Sirhan, the father of RFK assassin, was a member in good standing as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    At least, the Elders and notables in his neighborhood had singled him out as such when they snitched to authorities and to newspaper reporters at the time of Robert Kennedy’s murder.

    Bishara was living 20 miles northeast of Jerusalem in Israeli-occupied Jordan at the time.
    Bishara spoke fluent English. Unfortunately for him, he had a reputation for being excitable, even volatile at times.

    Sirhan Sirhan’s father remonstrated with reporters:

    “I am very, very sorry! I brought up my children as best as I could and to fear God. I am sorry for what happened.”

    Bishara had moved his family to the U.S. in the 1950’s, remaining 11 years before he split with his wife and returned to Jordan where he built his home. In a public show of piety, he had inscribed on his wall in Arabic:

    “Jehovah the High, you gave me happiness in the world. Give me eternal life. You are the only God and nobody shall be worshiped before you.”

    Neighbors made it clear to reporters how they felt about other religious neighbors when they said they looked down on JW’s because they were too ”pro-Jewish.”


    Photocopy of newspaper article:,578715


    This was reported June 6, 1968, when the newspaper in Sarasota published the article.
    What consequences followed? In less than 24 hours, I heard about it.

    At the time, I was a Jehovah’s Witness serving an indeterminate sentence of possibly 6 years in the Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution.
    Why “indeterminate”?
    I was not yet legally an adult. Adult sentence guidelines called for up to 5 years in prison for violation of the Universal Military Training and Service Act. However--a non-adult could get the “indeterminate” sentence of six months to six years depending on factors yet to be determined by parole hearings.

    This was during the Vietnam War and JW’s were urged by local congregation leaders to make ourselves targets of prosecution as conscientious objectors.
    When news the news arrived in Seagoville of the rumor connecting assassination of RFK with Jehovah’s Witnesses it created a tremor.

    The impact on the 40 or so Jehovah’s Witnesses in prison was mild panic. At least, that’s how I would characterize it. A fellow JW inmate named Sam explained the implications to me in no uncertain terms.

    “This could be the beginning of the Great Tribulation,” he began. “The persecution could arrive and we’re sitting ducks if the other prisoners decide to take revenge.”

    I listened quizzically. I had a dim grasp of politics as many JW’s did. We only knew what we learned as framed by Watchtower rhetoric. The buzz was already in the air about 1975 being “The End of 6,000 years of Human Existence.”

    “Hang fire a minute, Sam--let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Why would anybody attack conscientious objectors who refuse to take up arms?”

    Sam gave me a look of wonderment that I could be so naive.

    “Jehovah’s people are despised because we self-identify as detached from our fellow man - defiant and pure.
    All folks need is one little excuse to blame us for something--like the son of a Jehovah’s Witness murdering President Kennedy’s brother!”

    I thought about what he was saying, but I didn’t feel panic, only worry. It just sounded possible but far-fetched.

    “Well--I don’t know why I should be upset. You’re the only one who’s said anything so far. Besides, isn’t Jehovah supposed to be protecting us?”

    Sam made an exasperated face at me--like I was clueless.

    “There are such things as martyrs, you know!”

    I had to laugh. Soon Sam laughed as well.
    The over-dramatic statement struck us as excessive.

    “We’ll wait and see. We’ll just have to wait and see.”


    Sunday June 9, 1968, the Washington Post printed an article taking things a step farther.

    A reporter from the prestigious Washington Post was welcomed into Bashar Sirhan’s home overlooking the Dead Sea as cold beer was delivered. The reporter asked the assassin’s father about his connection with the Jehovah’s Witness ‘sect’ (presumably from the eleven years spent in California). This was only a few days after the first news article mentioning the JW’s. This time, Bishara refused to talk about it directly and complained about his gossiping neighbors. Finally, he shrugged away prying questions ‘with some irritation’ by saying, “These are confidential matters.”

    (PDF copy of Washington Post article)

    Ironically, Sirhan joined the Baptist church and was briefly a Seventh-day Adventist. In 1966, two years before he would kill Kennedy, he turned to an occult organization called the Ancient Mystical Order of the Rosae Crucis, or the Rosicrucians.

    These two publicized mentions of Jehovah’s Witnesses had created an effect.

    Watchtower Society was ‘crisis prevention’ mode.

    Do we have to wonder why?

    Subscribers to the Watchtower magazine had immediately begun canceling subscriptions!

    Subscriptions were obtained door to door in person, a laborious process at best. Each canceled subscription represented hundreds of man-hours of grunt work (called our ministry.)

    A secret letter was sent to each city by the Watchtower headquarters with instructions not to show the contents of said letter to any outsiders. The message was to be copied and passed from congregation to congregation. Headquarters didn’t seem to know any details of any JW connection with the Sirhan family. A vigorous denial was suggested unless anybody at the local level had contrary personal information.

    The letter is dated a month after the news article appeared.

    Photocopy of confidential letter:



    I was 18 when Robert Kennedy’s brother John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been murdered not all that far from where we now served out our time in prison.

    JFK’s assassination was the most sensational, world-stopping event in my lifetime.

    I was in High School on November 22, 1963, and one day later submitted to baptism and became officially a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses at assembly in Cleburne, Texas.
    (Oddly during that religious assembly, not one word was spoken concerning the sensational murder the day before! It was all an oblivious, self-induced happy-happy New World Society talk and religious jabber.)

    Among Jehovah’s Witnesses, every single world event is proof positive of End Times signs and wonders! This is how newspapers and newscasts are filtered through their consciousness. Everything “proves” we were right! Any minute now--the Great Tribulation and Armageddon will come and sweep everything and everybody but--US! We were “the only true religion.”

    Jehovah’s Witnesses are self-focused on purpose, you see.
    Only us. God’s chosen.
    JW’s are indoctrinated to expect to be the bullseye of Satan’s target when the End comes.
    This is (cough cough) predicted in advance in scripture.
    Such a badge of honor turned to horror having the words “Jehovah’s Witness” smeared in newspapers with a world-shaking assassination.
    Being so self-involved, self-centered, and special meant: ”This is it!”
    THE END OF THE WORLD was beginning and we were trapped!
    Oh the silly drama!

    54 years have passed and the Watchtower religion is still promoting the world’s GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sale.

    At District conventions with huge audiences in attendance, the Watchtower presents slick video dramatizations about---guess what? The bunker mentality they are still promoting!

    Any day now the Great Tribulation and Armageddon will come. Will they be ready?


    Back to Sirhan Sirhan


    On June 7 in Los Angeles, a News Dispatch:

    In this more detailed news story, the Elders in Bishara’s community (whom he called ‘gossips’) provided news reporters with these tidbits of enlightenment:

    “The Elders said the family became connected with Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘many years’ ago. And it was that religious group which paid the way for the Sirhan family to go to the United States in 1957. These notables said they believed Bishara still received money from the Jehovah’s Witnesses in addition to money sent by his other son.

    When asked, Sirhan claimed he lived off a ‘small pension’ and a bit of farming. The article explained that Jehovah’s Witnesses had been banned in Jordan in 1959, but had continued to operate secretly, particularly in the old Arab sector of Jerusalem.

    Los Angeles authorities reported that Sirhan had been admitted into the U.S. as a permanent resident who could remain indefinitely without applying for citizenship.”


    The Palestinian-born Sirhan is serving a life sentence for gunning down Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, shortly after he won the California Democratic presidential primary. Kennedy died the next day.

    Sirhan was sentenced to death in 1969. His sentence was commuted to life in prison after California banned the death penalty.

    He has said that he had no recollection of the killing.

    48 years after the fatal shooting, Sirhan Sirhan was denied parole for the 15th time.
    He’ll go up again in 2021.


    Why did Sirhan Sirhan kill RFK?

    At the time of his arrest, Sirhan spoke of being “. . .opposed to Kennedy’s support of Israel.”

    What are Jehovah’s Witness views on Zionism and Israel?

    In 1946, during the time the horrors of the holocaust were emerging, the Watchtower made the following comments about Jews.

    "Nothing in the modern return of Jews to Palestine and the setting up of the Israeli republic corresponds with the Bible prophecies concerning the restoration of Jehovah's name- people to his favor and organization … The remnant of spiritual Israelites, as Jehovah's Witnesses have proclaimed worldwide the establishment of God's kingdom in 1914" Let God Be True (1946) Second ed. pp.217-218

    "There is no evidence in the Scriptures that the Jews as a people are meek. On the contrary, Jehovah's Witnesses only find it stated in the Bible that the Jews are "stiff-necked and hard-hearted", but when they call at their homes with the message of God's kingdom they witness the same characteristics. They seem to think that because they are Jews, and were once God's chosen people, they must ever remain that way." Consolation 1946 Jan 2 pp. 14,15


    Historical note: Jehovah’s Witnesses had spent the previous 60 years as Pro-Zionists. Suddenly, a 180 degree shift appeared contrary to that stance.

    [Watchtower 1955 May 15 p.296, and the "back to Palestine" movement that the Watchtower had promoted became labeled as a teaching of Satan:

    "By the publication of Volume 2 of the book Vindication that year, Jehovah's witnesses came to see that such a "back to Palestine" movement was by the spirit of Jehovah's archfoe, Satan, who has deceived the entire inhabited earth."]


    The Question now arises, could Sirhan Sirhan in any way have been influenced by the writings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in some disturbing way, seeing in print the Zionists were backed by Satan?


    We may never know, but it is a question I’ve heard asked. The Watchtower’s reaction to the mention of Jehovah’s Witness connection to the RFK killing may have brought to mind this anti-Zionist propaganda they were responsible for spreading. Did the collective leadership feel a sense of responsibility? Did their eagerness in trying to distance themselves indicate awareness of culpability, guilty conscience, or simply a desire to prevent the loss of subscribers?

    Like I said, we may never know.

    Conspiracy theories spring up easily like mushrooms after a spring rain and they are as difficult to snuff out as a forest fire.

    This is my personal memory of those dark days in prison, in a decade of upheaval, when I was in the thrall of a cult myself, self-sacrifice of freedom for Belief followed undue influence of my elders.
    If Jehovah said, "Frog", I was told it was my duty to respond by saying, "How high do I jump?"

    The only hopping I do since I left the cartoon mentality of the Watchtower religion is at the iHop pancake house.

  • Finkelstein

    Interesting read Terry thanks

    Did the collective leadership feel a sense of responsibility?

    Na do they ever ? these guys are so high up in power and stature they have little acceptance for anything but keep the fear and bullshit ongoing, so they can continue to absorb that power and stature unto themselves.

    You might be onto something there with that assuming connection.

  • Finkelstein

    To say that Sirhan acted out accordingly or influenced by something the WTS propagated is a bit doubtful, I think he did what he did to RK by the Kennedy's pro Israeli stance and military assistance at the time.

  • Atlantis


    That is a great article and I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you so very much.


  • blondie

    Thanks, Terry. I was an unbaptized publisher in 1968 (baptized in 1969). I seemed to have missed that info about Sirhan; I wasn't on the gossip line.

    Very interesting.


  • little_Socrates

    Okay I know I am gonna get crap for this but.... Sirhan Sirhan did not kill Bobby. Bobby was shot 4 times and the fatal shot came from point blank range from behind. Sirhan Sirhan was never close to him or behind him and didn't even get off 4 controlled shots he was tackled almost immediately. Sirhan Sirhan was at the scene of the crime he did fire a gun, and confessed so that was good enough for court. However the forensic evidence does not support him being the killer.

  • TerryWalstrom

    In my lifetime, high-profile people who have been murdered by assassins such as JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcom X, etc. create a wave of push-back against declared culprits by virtue (I think) of the puny stature of the perpetrators.
    Counter arguments, conspiracy theories, and allusions to "others" are quite commonplace. Look at the NIne-Eleven conspiracies less than two decades ago and you can see how automatically disputed "official" stories are met with skepticism and denial.
    I've read at least 40 books on JFK's killing and the pattern I notice goes like this.
    Amateur sleuths start punching outside their weight division.
    Evidence and investigation by non-professionals is doomed at the get-go.
    Besides, you can always come up with an alternate "what if" to blockade a piece of evidence.
    All I know is that, for awhile, it looked like assassination was happening way too often.
    When the first black president, Barack Obama, took office --I was absolutely certain he'd be killed. As far as I know--not a single attempt was reported.
    Does that mean things have gotten better?
    I don't know.
    It will seem to me a miracle if Donald Trump makes it out of the White House without some nutjob making at least one attempt.

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