Yasser Arafat and when poison ‘kills the president’
Mouth-searing and palate-pleasing narratives about assassinations that have a cunningly secretive nature about them have become all too common in the last 50 years — and non more so than when the victims turn out to be those of great controversy.
Whether it’s stories of Israeli agents using poisoned chocolates to kill Palestinian militant leader Wadie Haddad, odourless gasses causing the plane crash that killed Pakistan’s former military ruler, General Zia-ul-Haq, or the Russian recourse to a deadly Sarin-coated letter to kill al-Qa’ida-linked commander Ibn al-Khattab; the crude incidents were immediately transmogrified in the world’s press as the sinister practice of dark forces.
Even those sent to investigate them would be rendered to swivelling their heads in quiet puzzlement.
But if there’s a quintessential death of an individual that created too offensive a smell in the nostrils of his people to be forgotten, it is that of late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in 2004.
And the long-held suspicions surrounding the nature of his death were once again brought into the limelight last week when a radiation physics laboratory in Switzerland, upon request of an investigation being undertaken by Al Jazeera television, found high levels of polonium on samples taken from his hair, toothbrush and underpants which they were able to examine posthumously.
The circumstances of his illness were always shrouded in mystery.
Despite being flown to a French military hospital suffering from severe complications relating to flu, intestinal infection and a sharp decrease in blood platelets (thrombocytes) it took just three weeks before the 75-year-old leader fatally succumbed to his illness.
Yet what was extraordinary about this case, and the reason why so many columns written following his death appeared to be laced with gossipy benzene, was that they failed to determine the exact cause of his death, saying only that he had a “mystery blood disorder”.
The failure of Arafat’s family to sanction an autopsy and comments by then Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath about the French ruling out the possibility that poisoning may have caused his condition, did nothing to stem the suspicions.
Fast forward seven years, and now one of the worlds leading specialist laboratories in radiation have an unequivocally confirmed that high levels of the radioactive toxin Polonium were present in his body at the time of his death.
Why Arafat, Polonium and the possible culprits?
Yasser Arafat was a man of many enemies. He had an Islamist opposition at home, which for years he tried to cruelly torture into subjugation, regional Arab detractors and dangerous former comrades that splintered from his movement and put a price on his head.
But closer to home, he headed a semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority which he virtually ran like a police state. His decadent and cynical rule made sure it was awash with greasy-pole rivalry and whose security forces were staffed with officers that were as corrupt as the day is long.
And he seemingly pandered to their greed and avarice to ensure his position at the helm of Palestinian affairs.
To question whether some of his most senior adjutants and bodyguards, whether through sheer incompetence or complicity, had the temerity to play a part in his death — should never be ruled out.
But far more suspicions will fall on Israel.
Although back in 1993 Arafat signed a land-for-peace deal with the enemy he fought for over thirty years, by 2002 he’d clearly become disillusioned and began resorting to low-intensity warfare and uprisings which led to the deaths of many Israeli’s and Palestinians alike.
He may have in the process signed his own death warrant. Then Prime-Minister Ariel Sharon made clear that he no longer had any obligation not to harm Arafat — a comment which was perhaps indicative of the Palestinian leaders eventual fate.
Arafat and his Palestinian Authority were singled out time and again as having Israeli blood on their hands.
If a decision was made to finally neutralise him, then exile or incarceration would have been ruled out as futile — not least because of Arafat’s vow of fighting to death should the Israeli’s come to get him.
A far more sinister method with devilish accuracy needed to be considered, one that would slowly, but unassumingly, crush the viper in his nest.
If you’re going to finish someone but make it appear natural, then polonium would be ideal material since it’s so hard to detect.
The historical record of its utilization, at least up to that point, was almost zilch. Few recorded cases, scant scientific literature on the subject and with symptoms being consistent with vomiting, diarrhoea and low white blood cell count; an already weak and flailing Arafat would not have aroused much suspicion, or so it must have been thought.
Now that the new information is out and Arafat’s widow, despite the alacrity with which she was content with the initial findings of his death in 2004, has called for her late husbands body to be exhumed, only a fully transparent autopsy and further investigation into his death will shed light on the reality.
The story of who, how, why and when — is yet to unfold.
If it’s proven that the heavily guarded Arafat was killed by deliberate poisoning from polonium, and there’s an Israeli brain behind it, there must also be a Palestinian hand that administered it.
Only a microgram of polonium, no larger than a speck of dust, would suffice for a fatal dose of radiation. Since Arafat first became ill after having his dinner, and a likely method of administering polonium is through a soluble salt added to a victim’s food or drink, those who were present on that fatal evening with Mr Arafat must be having pins and needles.
If and when the culprit is found, the desire for revenge will grow exponentially and only then will the near-frantic emotions currently being witnessed from those who cherished the Palestinian leader, finally subside.Tagged in: assassination, conspiracy theory, israel, middle east, Palestine, yasser arafat
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