A month and a half before his death on Nov. 11, 2004, I met Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat at the Muqata Presidential Compound in Ramallah. I came to conduct an interview for Israeli television after he had been besieged for many months at the compound, many parts of which had been destroyed during that time by Israel Defense Forces bulldozers. The gradual destruction of the compound, piece by piece, was meant to demonstrate to Arafat that his end was coming near every time Palestinians carried out a terrorist attack in Israel.
Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hated Arafat. He used to call him “the dog in the Muqata,” and longed for his death with all his might. What stood between Sharon and his giving a green light to assassinate Arafat were former US President George W. Bush, the international community and chiefly the assessment of the intelligence community that the assassination of the PA chairman would only further incite the bloody intifada that took place during those years. Sharon chose to imprison Arafat in the governmental compound in Ramallah and humiliate him as much as possible. Sharon believed that Arafat was not only the one responsible for the breakout of the latest round of violence but also worked to encourage and incite the uprising and the suicide bombings that terrorized Israeli citizens.
This was the situation in which I met Arafat. He was sick, tired and delusional. He looked thin, and I initially assumed that the days of siege on Ramallah had left their mark on his face and on his wizened body. He wore his gray uniform and was bedecked from head to toe in medals and victory ribbons, as if he were the general of a great military power. On the side stood the iron bed in which he slept. His appearance was pitiful. He continued to talk with pathos about the “covenant of the brave” he made with late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Oslo, while the backdrop of ruins all around and the smell of dust in the air were the relics of war and not of peace.
After four hours in his office, my impression was that the PA chairman had lost his sense of time and reality. He rejoiced like a child when Palestinian official Mohammed Dahlan brought him a tray of his beloved baklava pastries from Gaza, from a pastry shop named after him. He invited us, the camera crew and me, to a light supper: pitas, light cheese and the baklava Dahlan brought for dessert. Someone whispered to us that Arafat ate light foods because his health did not allow him to eat more. He could not digest what he ate, it was explained.
A month and a half later, on Oct. 29, 2004, he was flown to the Percy military hospital in France, where he died. Since then, the cause of his illness has been kept secret. Arafat’s medical file has been classified as highly confidential. Only his heir, Palestinian Chairman Abu Mazen, Arafat’s wife, Suha, and a very few others in the PA were allowed to read it and promised to keep its contents to themselves. But the rumors spread.
There is only one disease in the modern era to which society — as modern as it may be — still attaches a stigma to those who suffer from it: AIDS. Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi, Arafat’s personal doctor — who was removed from Arafat’s care in the last weeks of his life — at the time told the authors of the book The Seventh War, Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, that he knew that the doctors in Paris found the AIDS virus in Arafat’s blood. But Kurdi felt that he had to defend the leader who died of an “improper disease,” and explained that the virus was inserted into Arafat’s blood to hide signs of poisoning — which was the real cause of Arafat’s death.
Professor Gil Lugassi, president of the Israeli Society of Hematology, claims that all the signs of Arafat’s sickness prove that he suffered from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In confidential conversations — not to be quoted or attributed — I heard a similar assessment from PA leaders.
With this background, it can be understood why in the PA they were so glad to hear about the findings of the Al Jazeera network’s investigation in July 2012 regarding the question of the death of the rais. The report claimed that the radioactive element Polonium 210 was found in Arafat’s clothes, hat and toothbrush — which seemingly proves that Israel poisoned him. Suddenly, from the network so hated in the West Bank, came reinforcement for the thing everyone wanted to believe: Arafat did not die of a shameful disease, but rather Sharon gave the order to assassinate him.
Those same senior Palestinian officials who had previously confirmed to me the existence of symptoms of the illness immediately adopted the findings of the report and said with great relief: “We always knew the rais did not die a natural death, that Sharon assassinated him like he assassinated [Hamas founder Sheikh] Ahmed Yassin, and thus he can be considered a shahid — a martyr.” Polonium 210 retroactively turned Arafat’s death into a respectable death, a death of a martyr.
On the Israeli side, on the other hand, the minister of defense in Sharon’s government, Shaul Mofaz, does not confirm or deny the claim that Arafat died an unnatural death. Other Israeli senior officials of that period — former head of Military Intelligence Aharon Ze’evi Farkash and head of the Israeli Military Intelligence’s research division Yossi Kuperwasser — claimed, and still claim today, that Arafat died of a fatal disease without adding any further detail.
For almost nine years now the debate over Arafat’s death has produced rumors, legends and various contradictory versions. Leading those who seek to establish the notion of his poisoning is Arafat’s widow, Suha. She was the one who gave his belongings to Al Jazeera, and she commissioned a Swiss team to examine the report’s findings — some of which were published on Oct. 14 — and repeated the same conclusions. But while Al Jazeera’s investigation was appropriate and raised many questions to consider, the partial findings the Swiss scientists published raise the suspicion that they are political and hasty conclusions.
Arafat’s body was disinterred at the instruction of Abu Mazen on Nov. 27, 2012, to try provide a more precise answer to the suspicions. The examination and analysis of the samples from his body are not concluded yet, and it is unclear whether an unequivocal answer will be given, even at the end of the process. What caused the researchers to rush and publish partial and old findings that again only touch on Arafat’s belongings? Maybe it was just a desire to be published, maybe there are political reasons and maybe it was the additional pressure Arafat’s wife applied leading up to the ninth anniversary of his death.
Anyone who closely reads the findings of the partial opinion published in the British journal The Lancet, which were quoted at length in The Guardian, can understand another important element of the story. The Swiss scientists find it hard to prove that poisoning was the cause of Arafat’s death. They admit that Arafat had a growth in his stomach, and they do not talk about HIV. The word that repeats again and again in the report they published is “possibility”: “The findings could support the possibility that Arafat was poisoned.” Is there such indisputable evidence? No, it is only a possibility. Did Sharon long so for the PA chairman’s death that he decided to assassinate him despite international opposition? That is also a possibility. It is too bad that the Swiss researchers did not patiently wait for the final conclusions, which would have given their investigation more serious and professional validity.
(Photo: Aish.com / YouTube)
Despite advances in modern medicine, China is setting up roadblocks to cope with an outbreak of an ancient plague that once wiped out one-third of the world’s population and may have been one of the plagues that God used to strike Egypt.
Chinese officials installed temperature scanners at airports and checkpoints on main roads in an attempt to stop the spread of Bubonic plague as a fourth case was discovered in less than three weeks. A program to exterminate rats and fleas, which carry the disease, was also launched in Inner Mongolia where the disease seems to be originating.
Demonstrators gather in solidarity with anti-regime protests in Iran outside the Iranian Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Reuters / Lehtikuva / Heikki Saukkomaa.
Four human rights lawyers currently imprisoned by the Iranian regime have been awarded with the annual prize of Europe’s most prestigious lawyers’ association.
The Iranian lawyers received the 2019 Human Rights Award from The Council of Bars and Law Societies Of Europe (CCBE) — a body that represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries and through them more than 1 million European lawyers.
The University of Bristol campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Bristol in England has adopted “in full” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the school’s Epigram independent student newspaper reported on Monday.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Bristol’s Jewish Society (J-Soc) welcomed the move, saying, “The University of Bristol has not been free of antisemitic incidents and the adoption of this definition is an important first step in helping the university tackle anti-Jewish racism. We now expect the university to use this definition in outstanding disciplinary cases.”
Pope Francis Meets Thailand’s Buddhist Patriarch in Golden Temple (screenshot)
Pope Francis topped off his three-day visit to Thailand last Saturday with a meeting with Thailand’s supreme Buddhist patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at Bangkok’s Ratchabophit Temple. The meeting took place in front of a 150-year-old gold statue of Buddha. The Pope followed Buddhist custom by removing his shoes.
During the meeting, the Pope gave the Buddhist Patriarch the Declaration on Human Brotherhood. The Declaration s a joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, last February in Abu Dhabi. The Pope met with the Imam last month to reinforce the Declaration.
An Israeli company says it is using space travel technology to help solve one of the most pressing problems down on Earth — the reliance on diesel fuel, a major source of pollution.
Israeli startup GenCell has developed an electric generator based on a hydrogen-energy technology used to power some of the most-famous space missions in history.
Feb 02, 2020 0The remarks from the US official came in wake of the Palestinian decision to reject the administration’s peace plan. US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to...
On January 18, a Shia Muslim rebel group launched a terror attack that claimed the lives of 111 in Yemen.
Days earlier, a Pakistani general captured popular sentiment whenever Muslims kill fellow Muslims by saying “Those who targeted innocents [Muslims] in a mosque can never be true Muslim[s].”
Such is the nature of one of the greatest claims that Islamic terrorism is much more politically than religiously driven. Thus, after another terrorist attack claimed the lives of Muslims in Bangladesh in 2016, it prime minister,
Sheikh Hasina, declared that “Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such act. They do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism.”
Having predicted last year that a recession would begin in the summer of 2019 and that it would likely start with a major repo crisis, I am now proven wrong by 2019’s fourth-quarter GDP. If the repo crisis that started in the final week of summer had actually been the start of a recession, we would have seen fourth-quarter GDP go negative. Instead, it came in at 2.1% growth.
I find that an interesting number because third-quarter GDP also came in at 2.1% growth, and second-quarter GDP came in at 2.0% growth. Now fourth-quarter GDP came in exactly at 2.1% growth. Coincidence or goal-seeking? Notice the numbers are “seasonally adjusted,” and think about how many assumptions are made in seasonal adjustments.
The effort to impeach and remove President Donald Trump from office has produced many losers and few winners. The drama of the trial in the U.S. Senate is must-see TV for political junkies, but it has also been dispiriting viewing for Americans of all political stripes.
Few issues have divided the country more starkly than the question of whether or not the president should be removed from office. The arguments from both sides of the spectrum and their lawyers, as well as from the talking heads on television, have not worked to change any minds from their original political positions.
Last week, President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his electoral opponent Blue and White leader Benny Gantz were at the White House for the announcement. So were a bunch of international diplomats, including three from Arab nations. The Palestinians refused to attend and rejected the plan sight-unseen.
Anyone surveying the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations already knows that the Palestinians’ goal is the eradication of Israel. The difference in the new U.S. plan, however, is that the initial major steps in its implementation can be taken unilaterally by Israel, even with no Palestinian participation
The U.S. “Peace to Prosperity” plan presented by President Donald Trump last week proposes unprecedented criteria for the formation of a Palestinian state. Among them is this one: “The Palestinians shall have ended all programs, including school curricula and textbooks, that serve to incite or promote hatred or antagonism towards its neighbors, or which compensate or incentivize criminal or violent activity.”
The context of this directive cannot be ignored; our 20 years of research show that the PLO has transformed Palestinian schools into a tool of war against Israel.