Official statements about the cause of Arafat’s death did not ensue, which gave rise to many rumors, including a possible poisoning. Last year the Qatari TV channel, Al Jazeera, took to investigating the death of Yasser Arafat, who received a Nobel Peace Prize for his participation in peace negotiations with Israel. Journalists received many of Arafat’s personal belongings (including clothes and a toothbrush), and tissue samples from his family members, which were then sent to Switzerland to the Institute of Radio Physics and University Center for forensic examination. After this, the French prosecutor’s office upon request of Arafat’s relatives initiated a formal investigation on his possible poisoning. Arafat’s widow, Suha gave her approval to exhume his body, which was done last fall.
French forensic experts asked their colleagues from Switzerland and Russia to help. Their main task was to confirm or refute the claim of Arafat being poisoned with polonium-210, and then if this was confirmed, then try to determine where the chemical agent was produced. The group’s results are being held in strict confidence. The Russian newspaper Kommersant making reference to its own inside sources reported that an official investigation into the death of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was completed and it concluded that the Palestinian leader was poisoned with polonium.
The story of Yasser Arafat’s sickness and the death was really full of conflicting reports, testimony of anonymous sources, innuendo and rumors. Everyone was working on creating an air of mystery: the “rais” himself, the head of the autonomy stubbornly not appearing in public, his inner circle insisting that he’s all right despite his obvious illness, the doctors hiding behind a wall of physician to patient privilege (and sometimes military secrets), and journalists who regaled their readers with unchecked data from anonymous sources.
In these circumstances, at the end of his days, Arafat was diagnosed with having food poisoning, the stomach flu, liver cirrhosis, Parkinson’s disease, hepatitis, cancer, AIDS, and much more. According to some sources, in the last week of his life, the patient did not lose consciousness and he kept wits, according to others he was in a delirium. While some claim that he was sick all the time or that he did not come out of a coma. In general, you can choose the version you like best, since the selection is wide. The following has been confirmed: in the middle of October 2004 Arafat felt a sharp discomfort. Doctors from neighboring Arab countries convened but they could neither diagnose nor help the patient. On October 29 with Israel’s content the head of the autonomy was taken to Percy, a hospital in Paris, where he got worse. During the next two weeks, the media repeatedly reported that he was “in a coma ” and then “died “, but rumors of his death were confirmed only on November 11th when it was officially declared.
It should be noted that the French doctors flatly refused to inform the public that their patient died. Due to a lack of official information, conspiracy theories began to spawn. The following theory emerged as the leading one: Arafat was poisoned by the Israelis, Americans and their agents in the inner circle of the popularly revered leader. When the story on the sickness finally went public, those supporting murder as the cause of death got a new trump card: it turned out that French doctors couldn’t seem to understand for what their patient was treated. In their opinion it was said: “the combination of symptoms that led to the death of the patient remains hard to define.” In particular, Arafat had intestinal inflammation, impaired liver and circulatory system functioning, which could be due to “various reasons.” The immediate cause of Arafat’s death was a massive brain hemorrhage.
Thus the French doctors could not completely rule out that Arafat died from an unknown poison.
Arafat immediately was hailed as a martyr, and since then the majority of Palestinians (and Arabs) have little doubt that he was killed. This case, of course, has been accompanied by sinister details: according to one version, one of the traitors in Arafat’s inner circle injected the poison into his ear. For the Palestinians, this story sounds plausible since in 1997 Mossad agents wiped out Khaled Mashaal who worked in the top echelons of Hamas.
However, the Palestinians couldn’t find out for sure whether Arafat’s ears, Israeli secret agents and poisons were involved in their leader’s death. Back in 2005 a relevant commission already admitted that it was unable to add anything to the conclusions made by French doctors. After this the case was pretty much closed, although from time to time some interest was still occasionally shown.
Gradually, t he story of Arafat’s death has turned into a propaganda myth of the “martyrdom of a relentless fighter against Zionism, who fell at the hand of a vile enemy intelligence agent.” Arafat has been forgiven for all his sins and he has been blindly attributed the image of a near holy man. It has become almost inappropriate to figure out the true cause of death of the “hero”: what if by chance it turns out that he died of old age, or (even worse) from something like syphilis? For martyr it is much more appropriate to be vilely poisoned by an enemy.
However, some people are still concerned about the cause of death of the legendary “rais”. Seven years later Al Jazeera got in touch with the widow of the deceased Arafat and asked her to give permission for a new investigation. She did not mind this and even supplied journalists with her spouse’s personal belongings, including things as intimate as his famous keffiyeh, toothbrush and even underwear.
With all these goods reporters went to Lausanne, Switzerland to the respected worldwide Institute of Radio Physics. Local scientists managed to scrape off biological materials from the possessions belonging to Arafat: particles of saliva, natural secretions, blood, and so on. Upon analyzing the samples, radiologists found that the body of the “rais” contained a suspicious lot of radioactive polonium – 210 – ten times more than the norm. Since polonium is a very dangerous metal that one cannot get hold of it so easily, at once it was suspected that Arafat came into close contact with the substance against his will.
It should be noted that polonium-210 has a half-life of 138 days. That is, every 138 days the number of active isotopes in the middle of this substance is halved. According to the laws of quantum physics, the second half, breaking up and emitting radiation is converted into lead (not a very useful element either, but much safer for one’s health than polonium whose radiation causes severe damage to living tissue).
If the Palestinian leader was somehow slipped polonium now only about a fifteen hundred thousandth of the initial volume remains. That is, someone must had heavily drugged Arafat with this dangerous metal in 2004 so that eight years later traces could be detected by Swiss physics. Some experts believe that the “rais” must have swallowed a whole bar full. And taking into account the suspiciousness of Arafat, one must admit that this is highly unlikely.
Since Swiss experts are people too they could have made a mistake in their calculations. One needs to go one step further to find out the truth: open up the grave of the former head of Palestine and carry out an analysis of his remains. If traces of polonium-210 are found there too, then we can say with certainty that Arafat was poisoned after all, and start looking for the killers.
However, the consent of Arafat’s relatives was needed to exhume the body, and it was not long in coming: Suha Arafat addressed the current government autonomy asking to open the grave and conduct another examination. Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, didn’t need to be convinced: on the day of the request he ordered the exhumation of the body and the creation of a special commission for examination.
Consequently, Swiss scientists unveiled details of their many months of research indicating that Arafat was probably poisoned with polonium.
No matter how Yasser Arafat passed, whether he was sent to his death by the Israeli secret service, enemies in his own inner circle or he died a natural death, one thing is certain: Arafat’s death and now rampant conclusions about his possible poisoning clearly plays into Israel’s hands. Such an atmosphere of hostility, mistrust and hostility creates additional problems in Israeli- Palestinian negotiations. During negotiations (which Israel’s ruling elite were forced to hold) they were merely interested in preserving the status quo.
Alexander Efimov, Candidate of Historical Sciences, Expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.