Tuesday, October 15, 2013

15-Oct-13: What's behind the claims that Arafat died of radiation poisoning? [UPDATED]

Abbas and the iconic image of a predecessor [Image Source]
We deal here with the ongoing war against terrorists and terrorism, so it's appropriate that we update readers on new things learned about the late and unlamented Yasser Arafat, founding head of the PA, Nobel Prize laureate, notorious arch-terrorist.

Recall the headlines made just three days ago with the appearance of reports quoting a professional source some will regard as authoritative:
One of the world's leading medical journals has supported the possibility that Yasser Arafat, the longtime Palestinian leader, was poisoned with the radioactive element polonium 210. The British The Lancet journal has published a peer review of last year's research by Swiss scientists on Arafat's personal effects. It endorsed their work, which found high levels of the highly radioactive element in blood, urine, and saliva stains on the Palestinian leader's clothes and toothbrush. The work of the experts at Lausanne University, Switzerland, was triggered by an Al Jazeera investigation... By November 4, 2004, [Arafat] died of a cerebral haemorrhage, at the age of 75. Despite several scientific tests, there was no evidence of poison, and the cause of his illness remained unidentified... According to the Lancet publication, "[the] findings support the possibility of Arafat's poisoning with 210Po ... on the basis of [the] forensic investigation, there was sufficient doubt to recommend the exhumation of his body in 2012". The results of that latest analysis are expected shortly. [aljazeera.com, October 12, 2013
The Lancet's report is here behind a paywall. To our eyes, it seems to say substantially less than the learned editors at aljazeera.com are claiming, but what do we know. Others, with ties to the dead terrorist and his successors, seem sure enough of what they heard to drop the "supported the possibility" part of the reports. For instance, the main Iranian government-controlled media mouthpiece reported forthrightly on Saturday that
According to British journal the Lancet, Arafat was poisoned with the radioactive element polonium 210... [PressTV, October 12, 2013] 
Now, today, there's this:
Russian official: Arafat did not die from polonium poisoning | DPA | Oct. 15, 2013 | 12:44 PM | A Russian official said Tuesday that forensic tests found no indications of polonium poisoning in the body of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. "He could not have died of polonium poisoning – the Russian experts found no traces of this substance," Vladimir Uiba, the head of Russia's Federal Medical-Biological Agency, told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday. Last week, Britain's The Lancet journal reported that Swiss toxicologists discovered significant, unexplained traces of polonium in stains found on Arafat's belongings... In February of last year, Arafat's wife, Suha, gave researchers full access to her husband's medical file and to his personal effects in an effort to confirm her claim that he had been poisoned. In November 2012, Arafat's body was exhumed and samples of it were given to French, Swiss and Russian forensic experts as part of the investigation. 
If evidence that Arafat was poisoned by the Israelis cannot be found and soon, the previous list of theories is likely to stick around and prey on people's minds. We can rely on the energy of the inner circle of Arafat heirs to deal creatively with the challenge.

Mortifying as it must be to Palestinian Arabs deeply invested in cultivating a statesman-like image for the Yasser Arafat persona, the theory that remains persistent is that the man died with, or of, AIDS

For skeptics, that happens to be the view of Ahmed Jibril, a terrorist colleague of Arafat and head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command [video interview on Al-Manar Hezbollah television, July 5, 2007]. It's also what Arafat's personal doctor, Dr. Ashraf Al-Kurdi [interview] has said. 

From a video clip translated to English by Palwatch
Why has that cloud of AIDS doubt not been dispelled before now? We can suggest a few reasons:
  • The determination of the grieving widow Suha Arafat who for eight years (until she made a 180 degree turn-about) refused to allow an autopsy [NYTimes, September 8. 2005]
  • The persistent refusal of the officials at Percy Military Training Hospital in Paris, where Arafat was treated in his last weeks, to release the medical file [The Independent UK, August 29, 2012]
  • The need of Palestinian Arab figures like Nasser Al-Qidwa, Arafat's nephew and one-time PA "foreign minister" to stick to their mantra: "We shall neither tire nor grow weary... of the demand to receive an answer concerning the martyrdom death of our commander [Arafat] who was poisoned by Israel. We are convinced of this, but we want proof..." [source].
  • The educational value in raising generations of Palestinian Arab children nurtured on this hateful and counter-factual idea [YouTube video]: that Arafat, in his death, was a hero, a martyr and a shaheed, who was poisoned by you know who.
The German news-magazine Der Spiegel summed up the dynamic well in a single line: "One thing is clear in the mysterious case: If Arafat becomes [we would say 'remains'] a martyr, it could help deflect attention from the Palestinians' problems."

And as is painfully obvious to anyone watching, the deflecting of attention away from their problems is one of the few tasks at which the Palestinian governments truly excel.

UPDATE:  AFP issued the following retraction in the past few hours (Tuesday):
Russia denies issuing conclusions over Yasser Arafat’s death | Tuesday, 15 October 2013 | AFP, Moscow | The Russian agency involved in studying the remains of Yasser Arafat on Tuesday denied issuing any conclusions about the death of the Palestinian leader, after a report cited its chief as saying he could not have died from polonium poisoning. Russia’s Federal Medical-Biological Agency (FMBA) was one of three international institutes involved in exhuming Arafat’s remains in November 2012. Interfax earlier quoted FMBA head Vladimir Uiba as saying he doubted a report published in The Lancet at the weekend saying that Swiss radiation experts had found traces of polonium on Arafat’s clothing... However, the FMBA quickly denied that Uiba had ever issued such a statement to Interfax. “We have not publicised any official results of our forensic review,” a spokesman for the agency told AFP, reading from an official statement. “Neither have we publicly confirmed nor denied media reports about there being or not being polonium in Arafat’s remains.” Pressed to explain the Interfax report, the spokesman said: “There was no statement.” The deputy editor of Interfax’s political news section stood by the story, saying Uiba made his comments in a sit-down interview. “The correspondent and I sat down with Uiba for an interview and this is what he said,” said the deputy editor, who asked not to be named. “If the (FMBA) press service later decided to issue that kind of statement, then it will rest on their conscience.” A foreign ministry source said Russia had no right to publicise the forensic review’s conclusions because the study was commissioned by the Palestinian leadership. “Our position on announcing the results of Yasser Arafat’s exhumation remains the same: only the Palestinian authorities can release this information,” the unnamed source told the ITAR-TASS news agency.
Deflection of attention, anyone?

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