It wasn’t Arafat who was Assassinated but the Palestinian People

Aljazeera America has the exclusive on the Swiss scientists’ findings that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned with polonium, after the fashion of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko. That the Likud government of Ariel Sharon in Israel was behind the assassination is not much in doubt. Polonium is only produced in Russia and wouldn’t be easy for a non-state actor to get hold of. Israel has a long tradition of murdering its political enemies (configuring all resistance to its Apartheid and colonial policies of aggressive expansion and ethnic cleansing as “terrorism” and then eliminating the “terrorists.”) This is not to deny that terrorism (in the sense of non-state actors killing innocent civilians for political purposes) has been committed against Israelis; it is to point out that the Israeli Right’s rhetoric sweeps up a lot of things besides that specific problem.

Mossad, Israeli intelligence, poisoned Hamas leader Khalid Mashal, who would have died if President Bill Clinton hadn’t ordered PM Binyamin Netanyahu to give him the antidote. Ariel Sharon sent a helicopter gunship to murder Ahmad Yassin, a nearly blind quadriplegic who was being wheeled out of a mosque, with the rocket killing innocent bystanders as well. Sharon’s action produced fury among newly-occupied Iraqis, both the Sunnis of Falluja and the Muqtada al-Sadr Shiites, and the outrage fed into the spring, 2004, offensives in Falluja and the Shiite South against US troops. American troops in Iraq never understood that they were viewed as analogous to Israeli occupiers of Gaza and the West Bank by most Iraqis, who often called them “the Jews.”

Arafat is widely hated in Washington and the policy elite there will greet the Swiss findings with a yawn. “Who cares?” said one member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The American 1% has ptochosophobia, the irrational fear and hatred of the poor, especially of the poor made poor by being looted by the 1%. For Palestinian families, the vast majority of whom were displaced from their homes and rendered stateless by the Israeli ethnic cleansing campaigns of 1948, and many of whom were made refugees all over again in 1967, Arafat was a symbol of resistance, perseverance and longevity.

He died more or less a political prisoner, under siege by the Sharon government. Only four years earlier he was near a deal with Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister who negotiated with him and Bill Clinton at Camp David in 2000. American pundits, who have a real blind spot on Palestinians, all blame Arafat for not being able to close the deal with Barak. But Barak never gave him a written, specific proposal, and the Israelis were determined not to give Arafat the entirety of pre-1967 Gaza and West Bank territory. Would an American negotiating with the British in the War of 1812 have ceded, e.g., New Orleans for the sake of peace?

The real tragedy of 2000 was not that a deal wasn’t reached in August. It was that Ariel Sharon succeeded Barak that fall, and Sharon did not want a deal. He, like Netanyahu, wanted to reverse and destroy the Oslo Accords. Indeed, even if a Camp David deal had been reached, Sharon would never have honored it, just as he didn’t honor Oslo. He had irredentist claims on the Dome of the Rock, sacred to 1.5 billion Muslims, in Jerusalem. His provocative visit to the area of the mosque that fall enraged Palestinians who correctly interpreted it as an announcement of a renewed round of Israeli expansionism and aggression. Indeed, Sharon, who had annexed 10% of Lebanon at one point, started claiming “security interests” in the Ghur Valley of neighboring Jordan! The Palestinian negotiators at Camp David in summer of 2000 had expected to come back in January of 2001 when there was a new US president and a new Israeli prime minister, and try again, since the two sides had been very close.

Neither George W. Bush nor Ariel Sharon was interested in any further negotiations when they first came into office. Bush is alleged to have urged “unleashing” Sharon, as though the old general ever held back in the first place. He also said that sometimes conflict clarified things, according to his then Treasury secretary. I guess things are clear now, Mr. Bush.

Aware that they were being screwed out of the gains of the Oslo Accords, and that Israelis had doubled the number of settlers on the West Bank since 1993, activist Palestinian youth launched the Second Intifada or uprising. Sharon blamed Arafat for it, and the violence it entailed, but it was a broad social and political movement for which Sharon himself bore a good deal of the blame. You couldn’t screw the Palestinians out of Oslo without there being some reaction.

With the crushing of the Intifada, the murder of the national symbol, Arafat, and the abrogation of key Israeli commitments at Oslo, including the return to the Palestinians of the West Bank, the chance for a decent life for the stateless Palestinians rapidly receded. Now, their land, water, oil and other resources are being daily claimed by Israelis as they are confined to closely-policed Bantustans far more brutal than those set up by South Africa in the heyday of Apartheid. There will be no Palestine, and the Palestinians are doomed to be a stateless people, a people without the right to have rights.

It wasn’t Arafat who was assassinated by radioactivity in 2004 but the Palestinian people.

40 Responses

  1. Yasser Arafat may well have been poisoned with Polonium-210, and I certainly would not be surprised if Israeli Intelligence did it. Nevertheless, neither proposition is an open-and-shut case. The Swiss experts performing the investigation did not categorically conclude death by poison. Their report states that tests on Arafat’s exhumed remains and effects “moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with Polonium-210.”

    Moreover, the Swiss investigators noted that Polonium-210 decays rapidly; that Arafat’s remains were collected eight years after his death; that no autopsy was performed at the time of his death; and that polonium poisoning usually is accompanied by hair loss and immune suppression, which apparently was not the case with Arafat.

    We probably will never know with categorical certainty whether or not Arafat was poisoned. But if he were poisoned, the Israelis would be the most likely suspects. They would not be the only ones, however. Arafat had many enemies within the Palestinian movement itself, and it is not beyond the pale to suggest that a rival, or rivals, poisoned him, if indeed he was poisoned.

    • ” Arafat had many enemies within the Palestinian movement itself, and it is not beyond the pale to suggest that a rival, or rivals, poisoned him, if indeed he was poisoned.”

      But who among Arafat’s non-Israeli enemies would have been capable of getting access to polonium?

      • In February of 2004 a report surfaced that Iran had produced polonium-210 as part of their efforts to establish a nuclear program. Iran has supplied Hamas and Islamic Jihad with weaponry.

        Syria also has a nuclear program. One underground reactor manned by North Korean personnel was destroyed by Israeli Air Force jets in 2007. Syria has maintained a close relationship with Russia, who may have given Syrian intelligence services radioactive materials that were eventually distributed to Hamas – whose leader Meshaal was headquartered in Damascus at that time.

      • “But who among Arafat’s non-Israeli enemies would have been capable of getting access to polonium?”

        I don’t know, but it seems to me the post-Soviet oligarchs and thugs might have had access to polonium and would have had no scruples about selling some to a Palestinian rival of Arafat. I’m not saying it happened; just offering a possible alternative to an Israeli operation.

    • PM Ariel Sharon had at one point in an Oval Office meeting with President George W. Bush indicated that the Israeli government may kill Arafat – to which Bush vigorously objected.

      On the other hand, declassified Israel Foreign Ministry documents indicated that the foreign policy experts in Israel expressed anxiety when and if Arafat would die as this would leave a power vacuum among Palestinians in which more radical elements could assume authority.

      One Israeli Jewish journalist who befriended Arafat called him one of the great Arab leaders in history and compared him with Saladin. Arafat was, in fact, revered by the Palestinian people despite many obvious shortcomings – nevertheless he will undoubtedly be identified as the “face” of the Palestinian people – much like Fidel Castro has been to Cuba.

      The death of Arafat led to a lessening of Fatah influence in the Occupied Territories and the strengthening of the more miitant Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations.

      The assassinations of Sheikh Yassine and Dr. Rantissi of Hamas led to the greater influence of the more militant leaders of the military wing of Hamas – this result was predicted by Israel’s own anti-terrorism experts. Israel failed in numerous attempts to kill the Hamas military wing leader Muhammad Deif, who has remained the most influential leader of Hamas since the Yassine and Rantissi killings.

      Re Khalid Meshaal: it was King Hussein who arrested two Mossad officers who poisoned the Hamas leader and warned the Israeli PM that they would be executed if an antidote was not timely supplied.

    • “This is an unusually speculative comment by someone who is fact-based in most of his comments. Elaborate?”

      If you are referring to my comment above, RBTL, I am simply basing it on the Swiss expert’s report that the investigation “moderately supported” their conclusion. “Moderate support” is far from a categorical conclusion.

    • “Why would that be in Russia’s interest?”

      I did not state that it would be in Russia’s interest. I referred to post-Soviet oligarchs and thugs, not the Russian government. One must distinguish between the two.

  2. Israel would like nothing better than to have this ‘revelation’ ‘put a hold’ on the ‘Peace Process’ at this time. Anything to delay or avoid a just settlement. Israel is doing quite well without peace. It is the Palestinians who are suffering/oppressed. The truth is that Arafat was 100% sincere in his quest for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. He did not die from poisoning. He died of a broken heart. Peace was within reach for a very brief period of time, but the enemies of peace killed Rabin and the peace process, both in Israel and the US. halls of power.

    • It’s way too late for a “just settlement.” The Israelis have virtually taken over the entire West Bank and have no intention of ceding even one square foot of it.

  3. “The American 1% has ptochosophobia, the irrational fear and hatred of the poor, especially of the poor made poor by being looted by the 1%.”

    It’s a very good bet that ptochosophobia is inherent in many more people than the One Percenters. Our resident neocons and other enablers of the One Percent are apparently afflicted with this malady.

    • “It’s a very good bet that ptochosophobia is inherent in many more people than the One Percenters. Our resident neocons and other enablers of the One Percent are apparently afflicted with this malady.”

      The problem with this one-percent/99-percent scenario is that it implies the 99 are the opposite of and on the other side of the fence from the 99 percent. At the opposite end of the spectrum from the featured One Percent there is another one percent (or maybe two percent) actively opposed to the ruling One Percent. Sort of allied with the opposition are maybe another 5% to 10% who are sympathetic but not enough to be active supporters. Back to the One Percenters’ end there are probably another 10% to 20% (in and out of Congress) enabling the plutocracy and supporting its members anyway they can in exchange for some reward – a job, campaign donation, or whatever. In between, for the lack of a better term, are a silent majority. Add them to the enablers and courtiers and we have a vast majority that facilitates in one way or another actions counterproductive to improving the lot of the poor. Add to that factors such as the different ethnicity (latent and overt racism) and religions of the Palestinians and they have a majority of Americans who are hostile or indifferent to them. With American support or acquiescence the Palestinians have the deck really stacked against them.

      • “The problem with this one-percent/99-percent scenario is that it implies the 99 are the opposite of and on the other side of the fence from the 99 percent. ”

        Oops! That should have been, The problem with this one-percent/99-percent scenario is that it implies the 99 are the opposite of and on the other side of the fence from the One Percenters.

  4. I like how Bill advances the idea that “there’s no proof,” that “we may never know” by whom, or indeed even whether, Arafat was poisoned. Let’s not be hasty, now, everyone, wait for all the facts, in a fact-impaired circumstance…

    When it comes to “operations” by the sneaky-petes in the part of the Great Game that is Spy-VS-Spy and assassinations and all that, ALL the Players profit by convincing the rest of us that suffer the pains and instabilities and Democratizing-Socializing-Nation-Building-actually-and-avowedly-equals-forced-regime-change idiocies that “our and their rough men” serve up that “no one ever knows for sure, it could have been any of a number of Players [like, who killed Allende with whose technical assistance, for one small example]. link to fas.org

    Of course, Arafat and his “business partners” in Israel, Europe, the US and elsewhere, were a bucket of pernicious slime too: link to theatlantic.com

    Ain’t no percentage in just “doing the right thing.” Especially when that particular kind of darkness, with all the false flags and manufactured crises and inflated uncertainties and ginned-up demands for ACTION, gets done plastering everything with bucketloads of Plausible Deniability and Carefully Scripted Obfuscation and Masterful Misdirection, makes perceiving, let alone doing, “the right thing” just about impossible. Generating that moral fog and mindless darkness is of the things that some of us humans are so unfortunately good at, to the cost and sorrow of so many others…

    • Your attempt to put words in my mouth by suggesting I said “there’s no proof” that Arafat was poisoned fails on the face of it, Mr. McPhee. I simply stated that the Swiss investigators performing the investigation did not categorically conclude death by poison. Their report states that tests on Arafat’s exhumed remains and effects “moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with Polonium-210.”

      If you think a report that “moderately supports” any conclusion amounts to iron-clad evidence and a categorical conclusion, you have no concept of the rules of logic or evidence. Moreover, you apparently have no problem in going beyond the findings of the Swiss team itself in your attempt to turn their tentative conclusion into a categorical fact (in your own mind) in order to fit your preconceived Narrative.

      • Just commenting on a perceived general behavior pattern, Bill. Particularized straw-mannery response in favor of a very different and by my lights very deadly Narrative? Everyone gets to make their own judgment on credibility and wisdom of these little remarks. SP far.

      • Dear Bill,
        Reads like you have relapsed
        to “Not Nice” typing.
        Remember to be Nice and Don’t
        Hit Other Kids.
        Regards,
        Johnny

  5. It was a widespread belief among the Palestinians and even some Israelis that the Israelis had poisoned Yasser Arafat. Even during his final illness many prominent Palestinians speculated that he was suffering from poisoning. Ghada Karmi, a London-based Palestinian physician said as much: link to weekly.ahram.org.eg
    Uri Avnery, a former member of Knesset, also believed that Arafat had been poisoned link to original.antiwar.com
    He also rightly pointed out that his death was a loss not only to the Palestinians but to any prospect of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis because he had the personal authority to sign a peace deal with Israel link to youtube.com
    Of course, certain people such as Sharon and Netanyahu never wanted to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians. Therefore, they regarded his death as a means of the continuation of the occupation.

  6. Al-Jazeera’s report about the polonium poisoning isn’t really an exclusive. It only seems that way to Americans because the US media is so assiduously ignoring the story. But it is being covered in the rest of the world.

    Last night (Nov. 6) on the CBC’s “As It Happens”, Canadian journalist Carol Off conducted a seven-minute interview with Saad Djebbar, the lead lawyer for Suha Arafat, Yasser Arafat’s widow which laid it all out.

    The rest of the world is coming to know about the Swiss scientists findings about Arafat’s murder. It is only Americans who are being kept in the dark.

    • Here’s a link to the Djebbar interview for any interested. The As It Happens website does not enable listening to free-standing segments. So if you want to hear the interview, click on the “Listen” link near the top of the page and then fast forward to the 9:50 mark.

    • The Polonium poisoning story was covered in detail in today’s (November 7) edition of the Washington Post. The American media (at least elements of it) are not ignoring the story.

      • “In detail?” Really? I don’t get the paper edition, but what page was the article (or were the articles) on, again? I can find one from 11/07 and a very few earlier ones about the speculation and exhumation. What about the “paper of record?” Don’t see much there either. “Elements of it?” Maybe “elements” as rare as Polonium 210 itself…

        • The article was in the “World News” section, Mr. McPhee, and it detailed the findings of the Swiss Experts. The point is Mr. MacIntyre’s comment above that, “It is only Americans who are being kept in the dark.” is simply not the case. I imagine that many other newspapers ran the story as well. Americans were not “kept in the dark,” by the media. Surely even you can see that, having apparently read the online edition. What more is there to report, other than the Swiss findings? It is not the job of news media to speculate.

        • Anyone caring to check Bill’s and my work can google ” arafat polonium poison assassination” or pick your own terms, to judge what is “simply not the case.” Looks like a few CT and left-wing rags, and ” foreign outlets…”

  7. Prof Cole” Now, their land, water, oil and other resources are being daily claimed by Israelis as they are confined to closely-policed Bantustans far more brutal than those set up by South Africa in the heyday of Apartheid. There will be no Palestine, and the Palestinians are doomed to be a stateless people, a people without the right to have rights.

    It wasn’t Arafat who was assassinated by radioactivity in 2004 but the Palestinian people.”

    Two state solution possibility passed by long ago. All will eventually know that the Greater Israel is now an apartheid state

    link to youtube.com

    • I’ve been to the West Bank twice. I’ve seen the imposing wall, I’ve talked to Palestinians who have been displaced, I’ve seen the modern Israeli highways that settlers take while Palestinians are forced to take worn roads that take three times longer to get from A to B as before, the tanks on top of Palestinians homes that hold the portion of water Israel sends to the West bank (which has to be ‘prudently’ used by each Palestinian family) as well as the banal checkpoints of humiliation and the myriad types of restraints imposed by Israel on the Palestinian economy. But please, making statements like these “are more brutal than those set up by South Africa in the heyday of Apartheid” is presumptuous. How do you know which is the worse case? That comment tends to trivialize South African Apartheid by using it rather cavalierly and in a not well-informed (or documented) comparison with the Palestinian occupation, and it fails to recognize the particulars of Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The struggles of South Africans against their apartheid and Palestinians against theirs are different. “Apartheid’ is not a slogan, it was real in S. Africa and is real in the W. Bank. Learn the difference.

      • I have quotes around that statement those words about South Africa were from Prof Cole’s piece. By the way Archbishop Tutu said that the situation in the occupied territories are worse than the situation was in South Africa

        I have been hearing up close accounts about the humiliation, torture of prisoners, destruction of olive trees, Palestinian homes, checkpoints etc etc from several friends who had been living with Palestinians in the winters for two and a half decades

  8. I always thought it was damn interesting that Sharon had a serous stroke not long after Arafat’s assassination and has been in a coma ever since. I am not a karma believer…think it is a role of the dice but Sharon being in limbo so long is fascinating.

  9. “That the Likud government of Ariel Sharon in Israel was behind the assassination is not much in doubt.”

    Actually, it is still in doubt. The Swiss report cannot offer evidence to support your conclusion. Also, Suha Arafat tonight told the BBC that she cannot pin the blame on Israel as Arafat had many enemies.

    More investigation is needed to reach a valid conclusion. All the rest is simply speculation.

  10. From a doctor’s point of view, this is not conclusive evidence. But asking ‘cui bono’ and doing the math of ‘what is more likely, Arafat getting a quite rare hematologic disorder or being killed by his enemies’, I find the latter much more likely. About the losing hair matter – ever seen a single hair on his head in a late picture?

    • As Arafat always wore his trademark “hatta” in public, nobody ever saw his hair.

  11. “There will be no Palestine, and the Palestinians are doomed to be a stateless people, a people without the right to have rights.”

    As JC has himself established, never more potently than through the maps which show the transformation of a green region into a salting of green dots, this has the status of simple fact. So it’s time to recalibrate away from a tone of crypto-optimistic outrage, and simply take it as established: a premise from which conclusions may be coldly drawn.

  12. At least he died VERY RICH, and that his wife has HEAPS OF AID MONEY to live on.

Comments are closed.