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Was Arafat poisoned with polonium? If so, by whom?
By ELY KARMON
07/11/2012
The Al Jazeera investigation seems to be an attempt to accuse and delegitimize not only Israel, but perhaps much more so Mahmoud Abbas and the PA leadership.
 
In an interview with Yaakov Lappin published in The Jerusalem Post on July 5, 2012, I asserted that considering polonium 210’s 138-day halflife, the abnormally high levels of polonium discovered by specialists at the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Yasser Arafat’s belongings eight years after his death could mean the polonium was planted much later.

In the interview I asked why the Al Jazeera investigators did not check the various homes of Suha Arafat, Yasser Arafat’s widow, and her lawyer, where Arafat’s belongings were kept during all these years, to find traces of polonium, as the British did in their investigation of the famous Alexander Litvinenko case.

I also asked why Suha, who was the only person to be extremely close to Arafat during his stay at the Paris hospital, and who kept his belongings, was not poisoned as well; she had no symptoms of polonium poisoning.

In the Litvinenko case not only did Litvinenko himself die, three of his associates were also hospitalized, and the polonium also contaminated a number of their children and tainted their offices, meeting places, vehicles and residences. Part of the spillage occurred weeks before he was admitted to the hospital.

The Palestinian Authority conducted several investigations after Arafat died in 2004, finding that his body guards and the people around him, including those who had dined with him, showed no symptoms of having been poisoned.

It should be stressed that Darcy Christen, spokesman for the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, told Reuters that the institute’s experts had found “surprisingly” high levels of polonium-210 in Arafat’s belongings but that the “clinical symptoms described in Arafat’s medical reports were not consistent with polonium- 210 [poisoning] and that conclusions could not be drawn as to whether the Palestinian leader was poisoned or not.”

According to Le Monde medical specialist Jean-Yves Nau, who covered Arafat’s hospitalization in Paris, the results obtained by the Institute of Radiation Physics of Lausanne are inconsistent with the examinations conducted by the Radiation Protection Service of the French army.

According to a reliable source cited by Nau, various analyses were performed on Arafat’s urine samples which ruled out the presence of radioactivity, although polonium- 210 was not looked for specifically.

Given the characteristics of this radioactive element, says this French source, if it is still detectable eight years later it is unthinkable that the French specialists were not able to identify it in 2004.

In the Al Jazeera video of the investigation, the presenter mentions that the 2004 analyses only checked for the presence of gamma radiation, but the above source says alpha and beta radiation were also ruled out. It is the alpha radiation produced by ingested polonium that causes illness.

This leads to one of two conclusions: either Suha Arafat did not give Al Jazeera her husband’s complete medical file or somebody decided to claim the French had simply not checked for alpha and beta radiation, which seems highly improbable if they were looking for a radiation poisoning.

Al Jazeera, and Suha Arafat herself, hint that Israel most probably was behind the poisoning.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES began to surface immediately after Arafat’s death. Ahmed Jibril, leader of the notorious terrorist group PFLP-General Command, publicly claimed Arafat had died of AIDs. Others accused Israel of poisoning him.

However, even if polonium poisoning was responsible for his death, polonium, like other radioactive agents, can be transported relatively easily; it needs only a plastic capsule for containment because it radiates only alpha rays.

In 1999 a Russian army officer was caught trying to smuggle a radioactive mixture of polonium and beryllium, stolen from the Baikonur cosmodrome, from Kazakhstan into Uzbekistan. Other cases involve the theft of several canisters of polonium 210 from All Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics in the city of Sarov.

IAEA inspectors detected polonium in Iran in 2000. In 2004 the IAEA established that Iran had been conducting experiments with polonium 210 as part of its nuclear program, possibly using material obtained from Russia.

Politically, the Al Jazeera investigation, on the background of the uprisings in the Arab world, which have not yet seriously impacted on the PA, seems to be an attempt to accuse and delegitimize not only Israel, but perhaps much more so Mahmoud Abbas and the PA leadership. They have found in Suha Arafat a willing partner in this endeavor as she is accused, among many others by Palestinian journalist Khalid Amaryeh, of “inheriting” hundreds of millions of dollars “registered under her deceased husband’s name in several European banks,” money which belonged to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The writer is a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism and at The Institute for Policy and Strategy at The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.
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