Middle East Desk
Note: This is a bit of a personal story for me…..for when I was working for a Spanish newspaper I met Arafat in Tunisia in 1980……an articulate man…an interesting man…..we were having coffee in his office and I asked why he had taken up arms….he told me that in 1956 his wife and son had been killed by an Israeli bomb and he felt he had to do something…….
May I see a show of hands……Do you know who is Yasser Arafat?
Did you say thew leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization? Then you were correct……but if you said he was a terrorist….remember one thing……that designation is a arbitrary one….depends on what you care to believe.
In 2004 the leader of the PNA succumb to illness and was rushed to Paris for treatment where he later died…….of course with all leaders that die under mysterious circumstances the conspiracies started flying around…..but his death was ruled a natural one.
But who was the man that so many came to look to for leadership?
Born in 1929 – his birthplace, like so much else about Arafat’s life, remains disputed, with some claiming it was Cairo or Gaza, while the Palestinian leader himself always insisted he was born in Jerusalem – he founded the Fatah movement in the late 1950s, with a view to rallying the Palestinians driven out of Israel in 1948 to take up arms. His organization mounted several attacks from various Arab territories, but it was after the war of June 1967, in which Israel vanquished the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan in a matter of days, that Fatah’s central role was cemented. It’s message that Palestinians should take control of their own struggle and not mandate any Arab government to deal with Israel on their behalf resonated with a Palestinian population absorbing the shock of the Arab defeat, which left Israel occupying East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights.
Arafat and Fatah took over the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1969 – the organization had been created by the Arab League five years earlier – and effectively declared Palestinian independence from the region’s power players. In the years that followed, the various armed factions of the PLO restored the term “Palestinian” into the international media lexicon through a series of high-profile acts of violence in many cases targeting Israeli civilians, including bombings, cross-border raids, airplane hijackings and the 1972 Munich Olympic hostage massacre.
Arafat’s pivot to accepting the principle of Palestinian statehood alongside Israel unlocked the diplomatic doors in Washington, even if it drew opposition among other Palestinian factions, and set the stage for the U.S.-sponsored Madrid talks in which Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met for the first time. But it was the secret talks between Arafat’s representatives and Israeli interlocutors in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, that brought about the breakthrough 1993 Oslo Accords that gave the Palestinians limited territorial sovereignty and partial control over civil affairs in the West Bank and Gaza. Those accords, sealed by the historic White House handshake between Arafat and Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin won both men (and Israel’s President Shimon Peres, who had been instrumental in the secret talks) the Nobel Peace Prize. They were meant to set the stage towards negotiation of a “final-status” agreement that would set the parameters of two-state solution by setting up the administrative and security infrastructure of statehood through the Palestinian Authority.
Arafat was elected by an 83 percent landslide as President of the PA, and became a fixture on the international diplomatic circuit, although Palestinians on the ground complained that Israeli settlements were continuing to expand. But mistrust between Arafat and the Israelis intensified, with the Palestinian side claiming that Israel was not fulfilling its territorial commitments, while the Israelis complained that the PA was not doing enough to restrain a Hamas campaign of bomb attacks on civilian buses inside Israel. The assassination of Rabin by an Israel hard-liner and the victory by Benjamin Netanyahu – a staunch opponent of Oslo – in the resulting election further chilled relations between the two sides.
As usual for this region, suspicion and mistrust run deep on both sides….his final days were spent in Ramallah surrounded by Israeli tanks…he become ill and was rushed to Paris for treatment…..
Shortly after his death there were many who thought that he may have been poisoned because he went from healthy to ill so quickly……and soon the calls for a new autopsy to determine the cause…….and now we have an answer……
From a report written in AJE……..
A 108-page report (PDF) by the University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, which was obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera, found unnaturally high levels of polonium in Arafat’s ribs and pelvis, and in soil stained with his decaying organs.
The Swiss scientists, along with French and Russian teams, obtained the samples last November after his body was exhumed from a mausoleum in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
Dave Barclay, a renowned U.K. forensic scientist and retired detective, told Al Jazeera that with these results he was wholly convinced that Arafat was murdered.
“Yasser Arafat died of polonium poisoning,” he said. “We found the smoking gun that caused his death. What we don’t know is who’s holding the gun at the time.”
“The level of polonium in Yasser Arafat’s rib…is about 900 milibecquerels,” Barclay said. “That is either 18 or 36 times the average, depending on the literature.”
Suha Arafat, the late Palestinian leader’s widow, received a copy of the report in Paris on Tuesday. “When they came with the results, I’m mourning Yasser again,” she said. “It’s like you just told me he died.”
The Swiss report only examined the question of what killed Arafat. It did not address or point towards who killed him or how.
Okay sports fans, any way you cut this report….the man was assassinated!
SO with all that info thrown at you…..who killed Arafat?
By whom? I have a theory…..but I will remain silent for I have NO proof…….but there is an entity where political assassination is a way of life….just saying….that would be my first guess.
You may think ill of the man but he was idolized by millions as a leader of a new Palestine state….like him or not….he was a man of conviction….and we have so few people of that caliber.
Personally, I respect anyone who is truly willing to die for their beliefs….NO matter who they are or who they represent.