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The Murder of Arafat


“We have to get rid of Arafat”

~Israeli defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to Prime Minister Sharon caught on an open mic

Source: Haaretz (Hebrew)

“We operated against Ahmed Yassin and Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi [two Palestinian leaders extrajudicially assassinated by Israel] when we thought the time was suitable. On the matter of Arafat we’ll operate in the same way, when we find the convenient and suitable time. One needs to find the time and to do what has to be done.”

~ Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to Ma’ariv newspaper

Source: The Guardian

Yasser Arafat may be dead, but for all intents and purposes he lives on and continues to be a thorn in Israel’s side. Earlier this month a Swiss doctor announced that high levels of toxic polonium-210 were found on some of Arafat’s belongings. Polonium-210 is a highly radioactive substance, one that would require a nuclear reactor and expertise to produce and handle. Israel, being a nuclear power and having publicly expressed a motive for Arafat’s “elimination,” fits the description.

Swiss doctor Francois Bochud, director of the Institute of Radiation Physics in Lausanne, Switzerland, was quoted in the report on a nine-month investigation by Al Jazeera that “We have evidence there is too much polonium, but we also have hints from the medical records that this may not be the case. The only way to resolve this anomaly would be by testing the body.”

If exhumation and examination of Arafat’s body (currently reposing in its tomb, located a  half a kilometer from my home) seven years after his death reveals the presence of polonium-210, the question demanding an answer will be: who killed him and why?

It may seem a futile task to focus on a single person’s death when the region is engulfed in wholesale killing, until, that is, you realize that the killing of Arafat was meant to be an accelerator in the process of bringing about the wholesale demise of an entire indigenous people.

A Palestinian attorney in the Galilee has pointed the finger at those he believes are most likely responsible for the murder of former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. The accused are named and their histories cited; their own words indict them, and their acts of sustained violence speak volumes.

The charge sheet incriminates five of Israel’s top brass:

1-    Ariel Sharon, in his capacity as Prime Minister of the Government of Israel, 2001-2006 (currently reported as being clinically dead);

2-    Avi Dichter, as head of the Shin Bet (Israeli internal security), 2000-2005 (Member of Knesset for Kadima Party);

3-    Shaul Mofaz, in his capacity as Israeli Minister of Defense, 2003-2006 (now leader of the Kadima Party);

4-    Moshe Ya’alon, in his capacity as Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, 2003-2005 (now a Deputy Prime Minister of Israel);

5-    Meir Dagan, as Director of the Mossad from 2002 to 2011 (currently a leader of a movement called “Yesh Sikkui”).

The person who has made these accusations is Palestinian-Arab Israeli writer and lawyer, Sabri Jiryis, a graduate of the Hebrew University law faculty and a prominent Palestinian activist with Arafat’s political party, Fatah. For a long time, Mr. Jiryis served as Arafat’s adviser on Israeli affairs as well as serving as the director of the Palestine Research Centre in Lebanon and later in Cyprus. He was one of Arafat’s confidants for decades, until Arafat’s death.

Mr. Jiryis has just posted on his website a revealing analysis of the historic context leading up to Arafat’s assassination, entitled: Arafat’s Murder – The Crime and its Ramifications. The essay was posted in Arabic which may limit the non-Arabic-speaking world’s benefit from this insider’s exposé.

Bottom line: Mr. Jiryis meticulously assembles and presents hard evidence demonstrating why these five Israeli leaders, in particular, should be brought before a court of justice. His analysis offers no words of rage or revenge but rather a cold, clinical review of a systematic series of actions and statements by each of these Israeli leaders which would logically bring any objective observer to the conclusion that, if justice is to be served, these five persons should be charged with Arafat’s murder and put on trial.

Following the Al-Jazeera airing of their documentary concluding that Arafat may have been poisoned by radioactive polonium, Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor, ordered an investigation into Arafat’s death. In reply, in Cairo, on July 17, 2012, the Arab League set up an independent committee to probe the death of the iconic former Palestinian leader.

As the independent investigation committee embarks on its mandate, Mr. Jiryis’ analysis can make an important contribution by putting Arafat’s murder into historical context. Israeli leaders have employed murder, assassination and mass slaughter ever since Israel’s founding, and before. The reins of power in Israel remain in the hands of those who seek to murder the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence. Meantime, when Arafat’s turn finally came, the trail of evidence left behind was so glaring that it would be an insult to humanity if those responsible are not brought to justice.

Whatever happens with this renewed effort to determine how Arafat died and who was behind his death, the Palestinian struggle for emancipation from 65 years of dispossession and 45 years of military occupation will not end. The idea that Palestinians are going to wake up one morning and decide to enjoy life under Israeli military occupation or as refugees is simply hallucinatory, as any thoughtful reading of world history would indicate.

Historic twists of fate are unpredictable, with many ironic overtones. Maybe, just maybe, the analysis by an Israeli-trained Palestinian attorney together with the clues to be found in Arafat’s dead body will usher in a long-overdue era of Israeli accountability for crimes against the Palestinian people.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business development consultant. He frequently provides independent commentary on Palestine and serves as a policy advisor of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He blogs at

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant in Ramallah and serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio and blogs at

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