FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Was Arafat Assassinated?

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Suspicions that the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned will be strengthened by the discovery by Swiss scientists of 18 times the normal level of radioactive polonium in his remains.

Mr Arafat, who had long symbolised the Palestinians fight for their own state, died on 11 November 2004 from an illness that was never fully diagnosed by his doctors.

Swiss scientists have been carrying out tests on tissue taken from Mr Arafat’s body and personal items with which he was brought into close contact.

They say they are confident up to an 83 per cent level that the Palestinian leader was poisoned and suspect that the cause may be polonium.

The results of the investigation by Swiss scientists is contained in an 108-page report by the University Centre for Legal Medicine in Lausanne which was obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera television channel which had previously carried out its own enquiry.

Mr Arafat’s body was exhumed last November in Ramallah on the West Bank where he was buried and 60 tissue samples were given to Swiss, French and Russian teams of forensic scientists.

Dave Barclay, a British forensic scientist and former detective, told Al Jazeera that the findings had convinced him that Mr Arafat had been murdered. “Yasser Arafat died of polonium poisoning,” he said. “We found the smoking gun that caused his death. The level of polonium in Yasser Arafat’s rib… is about 900 millibecquerels. That is either 18 or 36 times the average, depending on the literature.”

The report only examined what killed Mr Arafat not whether or not he was deliberately poisoned.

The death of Mr Arafat seriously weakened the Palestinian cause, of which he had been the enduring symbol for almost 40 years, and removed the one figure who could unite the diverse and quarrelsome Palestinian groups.

Many Palestinians will be further convinced by the new report that Israel was behind his death. Israel had previously sought to assassinate Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal, in Jordan in 1997 by spraying what they hoped was an undetectable poison in his ear.

But there will still be doubts about the trustworthiness of the evidence taken from Mr Arafat’s body so long after he was buried. The radioactive substance used, polonium-210, has only a brief half-life of 138.4 days so traces detected eight years after he was supposedly poisoned would be difficult to find.

There is also the question as to why French doctors, who were looking after Mr Arafat in Paris – to which he had been flown when he first fell  ill – did not find signs that he had been poisoned in the days immediately after his death. France had bad relations with Israel at the time and had no reason to participate in a cover up.

At the time he was taken fatally ill Mr Arafat was closely confined by the Israelis in his Ramallah compound where he had been for two years. Though he was old and not very strong he was not in ill health in October 2004 when he first fell ill with nausea and stomach pains which were at first thought to be flu symptoms. On 29 October he was taken to Jordan and then flown to France where he relapsed into a coma.

Suha Arafat, Mr Arafat’s widow, had given permission for his body to be exhumed after an Al Jazeera investigation into his death. After receiving a copy of the report she was quoted as saying: “When they came with the results I am mourning Yasser again. It’s like you just told me he died.”

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of  Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail