Thanks to Al-Jazeera, the mystery of Arafat's death may finally be cracked
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff tried to decipher the convoluted report into the former Palestinian leader's death themselves a few years ago, but to no avail.
The Al-Jazeera investigation heavily indicating that Yasser Arafat, the former chairman of the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization, was poisoned by a radioactive substance is nothing less than impressive.
This was an "old-fashioned" journalistic investigation – not another tweet on Twitter, or a blog by two important journalists writing about the Middle East, but a team of reporters managing to get hold of classified documents, Arafat's personal effects, access to everything connected to the matter, and trying to turn over every stone to get to the truth.
No small number of the people with whom we spoke about the matter last night negated the report and claimed "Arafat died of AIDS", even though there's not a grain of proof backing that.
But with Al-Jazeera, we have now real evidence leading to a sensational conclusion, and we must admit, in this case, it makes us more than just a little bit jealous.
While conducting research in 2005 for the second edition of our book "The Seventh War" (about the First Intifada), we got hold of the unabridged secret report on the death of the Palestinian president, compiled at Percy Hospital, in Paris where Arafat had been treated.
We held on to that report for the next few months and tried to decipher it, but it wasn't easy. First of all, the report was written in French, a language which is not out forte. Second of all, even after we brought the report to a translator, he told us that it was written in medical language, and in other words, we would need to find a French-Hebrew/English-speaking doctor.
After we found that, we started to crack the report. This was a hundred-page document full of contradictions and questions.
For instance, the report mentions that samples of Arafat's blood taken while he was still in Ramallah and sent to a lab in Tunis had disappeared. We're not talking about blood samples from some John Smith or Moishe Moishe, but Yasser Arafat – and they just disappeared.
Another example: Yasser Arafat's personal doctor, Ashraf Al-Kourdi, who was only sent over to Arafat on October 27 (two weeks and a day after the Palestinian leader fell ill) told us then, as we were conducting our research, that he knew that the AIDS virus had been found in Arafat's blood during tests at Percy. The report doesn’t mention this. But the report also does not mention a single word about Arafat being tested for AIDS, even though he had some of the symptoms common in AIDS patients. Al-Karoudi claimed at the time that it was Israel's Mossad that infected Arafat's blood with the virus.
The report also explicitly pointed out that Arafat's wife Suha, who gave an emotional interview to Al-Jazeera on Tuesday, refused to let the doctors conduct a liver biopsy in his final days. It's not clear why.
Every senior Palestinian official interviewed in the investigation claimed that Israel poisoned Arafat. This claim requires special examination, of course, because of the political implications. Nevertheless, everyone we spoke to on the Israeli side has vehemently denied the accusations. Not with a smile, nor even with half of a smile. Everybody, without exception, claimed that this was complete nonsense.
With all these accusations, we must remember that in November 2004, there was no Israeli interest in killing Arafat. Abu Amar (Arafat), by the way, was isolated, weak, and in many ways, irrelevant. In addition, a former Israeli official emphasized that the Israeli government had promised the American administration not to turn him into a shaheed (martyr).
Toxicity tests conducted on Arafat in Paris brought up nothing. The report itself shows the results of blood tests taken from Etienne Louvet, sent to the toxicity lab of the Paris Police and the military hospital. Etienne Louvet was the code name that the doctors used whenever they send Arafat's blood tests, in order to keep the results of the tests secret.
The report mentions the names of the different poisons they tried to pinpoint (in order to find poison, it's necessary to look for it specifically) – but Polonium 210, the poison discovered in the Al-Jazeera investigation, wasn't on the list at the French lab.
Nevertheless, Arafat's relatives and associates claimed over and over again that he was poisoned, and that Israel had not hidden its intention of getting to him. And again – until today, eight years after his death – we had not succeeded in finding any evidence to back up that claim.
And then along comes the Al-Jazeera investigation presenting new evidence that the Polonium 210 poison was indeed found on Arafat's personal belongings from his last days alive.
Even the Swiss investigators admitted that in order to get to the incisive truth that Arafat died of radioactive poisoning, it would be necessary to carry outs tests on his body or on the earth covering him (Arafat is buried in Ramallah).
Suha Arafat has already demanded that the Palestinian Authority dig up the body - and the PA agreed on Wednesday to the request.