Thursday, July 5, 2012

Looking into the cause of Arafat's death eight years later; too late?


         After the recent investigations concerning the former Palestinian president's death, the case has been reopened (not that it has ever been closed but maybe somewhat forgotten). Or maybe people have never forgotten, but have lost hope in the investigations that stated Arafat must have been poisoned and did not go any further. Suha Al-Tawil, Arafat's wife, cooperated with the Qatar-based news corporation Al-Jazeera to look further into the case of her husband's death.

 Al-Jazeera was given the personal possessions of Arafat that he used during his illness until his death these possessions included: the hat he wore when he left Ramallah, his toothbrush, the hat he wore in the hospital with a dried-up blood stain, his undergarments with a stain of urine, a hat which had some remnants of his hair, his koffiyye and other personal belongings. These possessions were in the same bag that Arafat used during his stay at the hospital and his wife had kept them since her husband's death. Al-Jazeera sent these things to a laboratory in Switzerland and had forensic specialists on the investigation team.

During their investigation which they were also documenting, they also attempted to speak to the doctors that were part of medical teams called upon during Arafat's sickness. Many of the doctors especially those from the Egyptian and Tunisian medical teams refused to talk about the case, and one of them admitted that the Egyptian authorities has asked him not to speak about the case. When they tried to contact Arafat's doctor who had continuously been by his side in Ramallah, he said that the matter is not a medical issue rather it is a political one.

When Arafat passed away, nobody had asked for his body to undergo autopsy. The body was sent to Ramallah and buried where Arafat had lived under siege during the first Intifada. When Suha was asked why she had not asked for the body to be autopsied, she replied that she was in shock of her husband's death and could not think reasonably. It seems now that after eight years she has finally come out of her shock and has restored her common sense. Suha, at the request of the investigators, asked the hospital for Arafat's blood and urine samples, but they had already been disposed of. The hospital is supposed to keep the samples of all patients for at least ten years, but they said that nobody had asked for them during all these years so they got rid of them. 

There was a high percentage of polonium found in the remnants of Arafat's possessions. Polonium is a highly radioactive substance that if used on a person will kill them slowly. There are two types of polonium; one that is found in nature, the other which is formed in nuclear labs. Unsurprisingly, it was the second which was found to have poisoned Arafat.


At the end of the documentary film prepared by Al-Jazeera Suha Al-Tawil asks the Palestinian Authority to exhume her husband's body (or what remains of it) from his grave in Ramallah. The forensic experts say that they can use what is left of the teeth and bones to justify if Arafat was truly poisoned.   

After 8 years, why not before? Has Arafat's wife no more money and needs to be given a financial compensation for the death of her husband so that she can reserve her platinum blonde hair color at the best hairdressers in town? She said that she was in too much shock to ask for an autopsy of her husband, but the body did not go straight to Ramallah until her financial matters were settled with the PA as many people believe. Or is this an attempt to blame the death of Arafat fully on Israel, when it is believed that a few members of the PA collaborated with Israel on the matter? And why is Al-Jazeera so concerned that it expensed itself with such an investigation? Is it not a news channel that is supposed to inform with news, or is it a channel that now makes news? And for all those who are going to say it is because of the Arab Spring that we can now look into Arafat's death, I will say things did not change in Ramallah. The Arab Spring never penetrated Palestine.