Coffee House

Yasser Arafat poisoning: Light fuse, stand back

13 June 2013

The wife of President Arafat, Suha, is understandably anxious. Next week, after nine years, she may finally learn whether her husband was assassinated. It will be hard to overestimate the consequences of that knowledge for the Middle East.

In 2004, whilst under siege in his Presidential compound, Arafat succumbed to a mysterious illness and was flown to a French military hospital where he died. Much to the frustration of his personal doctor, and despite allegations ranging from an HIV-related disease to Israeli poisoning, no autopsy was ever requested (under French law only Suha could give permission), and the cause of death remains unsolved.

I interviewed Suha alongside the Palestinian leadership for a new documentary series, The Price of Kings, where they reveal why her husband’s death became shrouded in secrecy, and why that’s changed. It was Suha who agreed to conduct tests last year after being approached by Al Jazeera:

‘I gave them a small holdall of Yasser’s with some of his belongings from the hospital for testing. The results showed there was a chance of poisoning because of the higher than normal level of Polonium.’

But they weren’t conclusive: ‘to prove poisoning they needed to exhume my husband’s body and carry out more tests, I thought we must find out the truth.’ But if the truth’s important now, why wasn’t it in 2004? Why wasn’t an autopsy requested at his death?
3But what of the political dimension? Wasn’t there any pressure from the Palestinian leadership to request an autopsy? Suha’s response is unequivocal ‘No. None whatsoever’ — as unequivocal as the Palestinian leadership in their belief at the time that President Arafat was poisoned. Nabil Shaath, Arafat’s foreign minister, told me:

‘I have no doubt that he was assassinated. The French said that whatever toxic material was in his body did not test positive in their toxicology table, saying in plain words this was a poison we did not have in our laboratories.’

Yet in public, the very day after Arafat’s death, Shaath was reported as saying after talks with Arafat’s French doctors that they had ‘ruled out completely poison.’

So what was the reason for that barefaced lie?  From the very beginning there was a theory going around that this is a case of poisoning” said the Palestinian envoy to the UN and Yasser Arafat’s nephew, Nasser Al Qidwa, but no country wanted to take the political responsibility.

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From The Price of Kings, courtesy of Spirit Level Film

‘It was France who accepted to try to save Arafat. We said we don’t expect them to tell us about that (the poisoning), but we expect them not to lie about the case. They didn’t lie, but of course they didn’t feel they were in a position to take the political responsibility by giving the necessary proof.’

For the French to shy short of the truth makes political sense but why wouldn’t the Palestinian leadership demand an autopsy at the time? ‘Given that proof would have meant the end of the peace process’ is Al Qidwa’s explanation, corroborated by Shaath, ‘What kind of finger pointing we could have made at the Israelis, what kind of finger pointing the French could have made at the Israelis, I think was a matter of choice. Our leadership made a choice. We didn’t push for an autopsy.’

There is of course another reason why someone wouldn’t want an autopsy if they believed a murder had been committed. Guilt.

We filmed at Arafat’s Presidential compound, the Muqaata, and it quickly becomes obvious that the reality of logistics on the ground meant if Arafat was poisoned, irrespective of who was behind it, they could not have got to him without collaborators. The Muqaata was surrounded by the IDF who ran security checks on supplies going into the compound. Even if poison was introduced into food at the security checks, there is no way it could be given to Arafat without an accomplice on the inside. This is perhaps the one incontrovertible fact amongst the vast amount of speculation around Arafat’s death.

Something that clearly pains the head of the Palestinian commission on the investigation, Tawfiq Tirawi to say, even inside the same statement, ‘Some days we would get 100 chickens delivered. If someone put polonium or any sort of poison in his food, it must have been a Palestinian. Maybe – maybe – there was inside collaboration.’

Fingers have been pointed at even the highest echelons of the Palestinian leadership. Yet their speed in granting the required permission to exhume the body for further tests was not only impressive but also in distinct contradiction to the official line at the time of Arafat’s death.

Indeed, there’s far more at stake from next weeks results than the fallout from Palestinian collaboration or the media pointing fingers at Israel. ‘If it is proved that Arafat was poisoned, we will go to the International Criminal Court.’ said Tirawi. That was only a possibility since last year and the Palestinians elevated status as a non-member observer state of the UN. It’s not a foregone conclusion the court would be prepared to hear a case, but if they do, though the smoking gun may be in the hands of a Palestinian collaborator, it will be Israel on trial. Less than a handful of nations have access to Polonium 210, Israel is one of them and would be the first country to sit in the dock in a case like this.

Who do you think was responsible for your husband’s death? ‘We don’t even know if a crime was committed so how can I make accusations? I make no accusations, I have no pre-conceptions. We have to wait for the results — and if they are positive, then it’s up to the criminal investigation and the courts’

At a time when John Kerry and Tony Blair are traversing the Middle East to resurrect a non-existent peace process, wouldn’t it be better to have just moved on? According to Suha:

‘No. If a crime has been committed it’s important that it’s documented – either way, the truth should be told. My husband is dead, it’s not possible that when new evidence emerges, we don’t investigate. Of course I’m nervous for the results, they’re very significant’

‘And they’re coming at the same time as our daughter’s graduation which my husband would have been so proud to see. So I have very mixed emotions. I’m anxious, but again, I think it’s important the truth comes out.’

John Kerry may not be so sure.

From The Price of Kings, courtesy of Spirit Level Film

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Show comments
  • bsackamano

    It’s now 9/1/13, where are these results? Now the Swiss are Zionist’s to the bone, Rothschild Central Bankers run that country and many more so I wouldn’t trust anything that comes out of that horrible country. The French on the other hand are one of the few mostly independent countries as evidenced from their history since WW2. But ANYTHING can be “delayed” if the Central Bankers/NWO want it to be. This is what we have now a “delay” or burial is more like it, good luck. It was the Mossad, who was done using Arafat as an operative, who did this btw. Maybe he suddenly got a pang of conscience after selling out his own people for so long? NAH! It was probably over his ego. They have fully infiltrated the Palestinian “leadership” just like they have done the same in many countries including the USA.

  • Elon

    If you think they are going to release any definitive results next week, I have a bridge to sell you.

  • Drakken

    Arafat deserved what he got and more, too bad those retarded leftist that loved that POS so much couldn’t find out what happened to all those billions of dollars and Euro’s that disappeared and fat boys widow living the lifestyles of the rich and infamous.

  • Matthew Kalman

    You’ll find most of the answers in The Murder of Yasser Arafat (DeltaFourth) here:

  • margaret benjamin

    Arafat was another trouble maker, Emptying the Bank account that was for the Palestinians people, then his wife ends up with the money in her account in Paris.Who knows if he had been poisoned it could have been one of his own.

    • Matthew Kalman

      It was almost certainly one of his own – as we reveal in The Murder of Yasser Arafat (DeltaFourth) here:

  • Jupiter

    What is all the fuss about? Everybody knows the old poof died of Aids.

  • Augustus

    “At a time when John Kerry and Tony Blair are traversing the Middle East to resurrect a non-existent peace process, wouldn’t it be better to have just moved on? ”

    “At times Arafat seemed confused, not wholly in command of the facts. I had felt for some time that he might not be at the top of his game any longer, after all the years of spending the night in different places to dodge assassins’ bullets, all the countless hours on airplanes, all the endless hours of tension-filled talks. Perhaps he simply couldn’t make the final jump from revolutionary to statesman. He had grown used to flying from place to place, giving mother-of-pearl gifts made by Palestinian craftsmen to world leaders and appearing on television with them. It would be different if the end of violence took Palestine out of the headlines and instead he had to worry about providing jobs, schools, and basic services. Most of the young people on Arafat’s team wanted him to take the deal. I believe Abu Ala and Abu Mazen also would have agreed but didn’t want to be at odds with Arafat.

    “When he left, I still had no idea what Arafat was going to do. His body language said no, but the deal was so good I couldn’t believe anyone would be foolish enough to let it go. Barak wanted me to come to the region, but I wanted Arafat to say yes to the Israelis on the big issues embodied in my parameters first. In December the parties had met at Bolling Air Force Base for talks that didn’t succeed because Arafat wouldn’t accept the parameters that were hard for him.

    “Finally, Arafat agreed to see Shimon Peres on the thirteenth after Peres had first met with Saeb Erekat. Nothing came of it. As a backstop, the Israelis tried to produce a letter with as much agreement on the parameter as possible, on the assumption that Barak would lose the election and at least both sides would be bound to a course that could lead to an agreement. Arafat wouldn’t even do that, because he didn’t want to be seen conceding anything. The parties continued their talks in Taba, Egypt. They got close, but did not succeed. Arafat never said no; he just couldn’t bring himself to say yes. Pride goeth before the fall.”
    – excerpts from President Bill Clinton’s autobiography: My Life.

    The Palestinians have a lot of climbing down and growing up to do if there is ever going to be a realistic peace deal. Yet the world continues to feed their unfettered aspirations and reward their recalcitrant behaviour. Recognizing Palestine as a virtual state at the U.N., even though the Palestinians are not prepared to end the conflict with Israel, was just another typical global indulgence of the Palestinians. By ignoring Israel’s concessions and genuine hopes for peace, while treating the Palestinians like spoiled children, the world is not advancing the chances for peace. Two states for two peoples means that the Palestinians must first recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This is the first step on the path to ensuring that the region’s Arabs come to terms with the Jewish people’s right to at least some of the land. But they refuse to recognize even that first step. And with whom do you sign a peace agreement? Abbas and his Ramallah gang don’t have the authority to sign anything. Even among the Palestinians of the West Bank Abbas has no support. So how do you end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Within hours of Israel withdrawing from Judea and Samaria, Hamas would try to take over the entire area. Hamas forces would be met with al-Qaida cells already stationed in the region, and together they would laugh at Israel for being so foolish. All the warnings over previous Israeli withdrawals came true; one by one. But this knowledge hasn’t stopped the peace industry from continuing to demand that Israel should uproot itself from its homeland.

  • JabbaTheCat


  • alabenn

    Nobody cares if or not this piece of excrement was murdered or not, if he was poisoned it will probably because he bit his own tongue and poisoned himself.
    If he was poisoned it will at least give a BBC reporter a chance to fuse microphone with their crocodile tears.

  • MikeF

    If anything Arafat was a moderate by the time he died, so why should the Israelis want to kill him?

  • swatnan

    I wouldn’t be surprised if his own mates did away with him. The fact is Arafat was an impediment to any resolution. The conflict had become too personalised around him.

  • sarah_13

    I think we can safely say whatever the results ( ridiculous though they will be after such a long time and so many opportunities formcontaminating of body and evidence etc) the Israelis will always be to blame, so palestinians can make much fuss of going to some international tribunal or other…. Meanwhile Muslims are murdering Muslims in their 10s of thousands in Syria and elsewhere in smaller numbers. Much easier to ponder on unprovable conspiracies. Par for the course. Meanwhile Israeli medical companies are assisting saving lives and generally adding to progress in the world.

    • Patriccia Shaw

      “Israelis will always be to blame”
      Yes but they are relaxed:

      ‘Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Palestinians were free to take all the samples they wanted.

      ‘We have nothing to fear,’ he said.

      ‘All the accusations against Israel are completely ridiculous and not based on the slightest bit of evidence.”
      Why so relaxed?

      The exhumation might not resolve the mystery.

      Polonium-210 decomposes rapidly, and some experts say it is not clear whether any remaining samples will be sufficient for testing.

      • sarah_13

        Far too much time on your hands……. I’m sure Israel has better things to do with its time than worry about a bunch of desperate fools who rather than focus on the future of their people prefer to indulge in this ridiculous nonsense. The truth is Israel could most likely not care less and if he didn’t die of natural causes the most likely suspects will be disgruntled ex associates, as is common inthe islamic world. Any excuse to kill or take revenge.

        • Patriccia Shaw

          The fact is that Arafat was a charismatic unifying force of the Palestinians.

          They love the current divide and rule situation.

          They wall up the Abbas men and bomb the encircled Mashal men

          They worry about the dastardly deed committed by Mossad in Ramallah in 2004 being exposed

          • jjjj

            And you of course know this do you? You know without a doubt that Mossad did it, if at all he was poisoned? You need to get a life.
            By the way, why did you recommend Sarah’s post if you disagree with her?

            • Patriccia Shaw

              There were alarming signs that the Road Map for Peace might be accepted. Arafat despite appearances was secretly pushing this in secret negotiations via the EU with Sharon and Bush.
              The Zionists could not allow that.

              • sarah_13

                What absolute nonsense.

              • HFC

                Why are my postings being suppressed?

              • Drakken

                Wrong! Your pali friends don’t want peace and never have and never will.

            • anyfool

              Patriccia Shaw
              This is Telemachus in drag, the style of garbage written is the same even down to his overused word charismatic.

              • telemachus

                I am flattered. Patricia makes a good point
                I am sure that nothing will be found in the body of Arafat
                So all will remain speculation

          • Drakken

            Oh look, another jihad lover, please go join the bloody savages if you love them so much, I am sure Rachel(St. Pancake) Corrie needs the company.

    • MaxSceptic

      I’m just glad he’s long dead.

      • Patriccia Shaw

        Yasser Arafat’s death led to a sharp rise in lawlessness and crime, as well as a steep decline in public service delivery. This led directly to Hamas’s January 2006 electoral victory.
        This has therefore been the single biggest factor in the inability to achieve peace in Palestine.

        • MaxSceptic

          Arafat’s death certainly led to a sharp reduction in theft and embezzlement. Anyway, I’m sure like the infamous BBC reporter, there was a lot of tearing out of hair, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments and donning of sackcloth in your house when the ghastly fraud croaked.

    • سيوبهان siobàn Vict.

      um with radiation…there is a very long half life..which does not degrade as other poisons do… ie U238 isotope for an example

  • Alex Creel

    Polonium hey? So Russia are beyond suspicion? I guess they’d have nothing to gain by stoking the arab/jewish conflict – the lucrative arms trade isn’t enough of a motive? As for the ICC – you need a suspect / some evidence / some witnesses to bring a case – the idea that Isreal could be prosecuted for the murder of Arafat by a Palestinian beggars belief… their time would be better spent trying Hamas for the murder of democracy in Gaza!

  • Daniel Maris

    Please! This is a yawn fest….who is supposed to have murdered him?

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