Placards of Arafat and Abbas 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Some tall tales refuse to die. In the Arab Mideast they even grow – often to
gargantuan proportions, usually proportionate to their inherent
This is the case with insinuations about the cause of
Yasser Arafat’s death eight years ago, at the age of 75. Conspiracy theories
abound. The only scenario serially discounted is natural causes.
years haven’t mitigated the suspicions/fabrications.
Quite the contrary.
Thus Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday that tests at a Swiss lab conducted on
Arafat’s purportedly uncontaminated personal items, such as clothing and a
toothbrush supplied by his widow, Suha, yielded indications of elevated traces
of radioactive Polonium 210. This, it should be noted, is the substance used six
years ago to eliminate Russian spy-turned-dissident Alexander Litvinenko in
The Lausanne lab stressed that nothing can be said for certain
without exhuming Arafat’s body, but that is no impediment to innuendo. The
Palestinian Authority said it would agree to an exhumation from the Ramallah
mausoleum if Suha Arafat requests it.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Arafat, leading the
accusing chorus, summed up the Al Jazeera “documentary” by asserting that it has
been firmly established that her husband’s death was part of “a criminal
These allegations are hardly new and surfaced hot on the heels
of Arafat’s demise at a French military hospital (which did not divulge the
cause of death). The appeal of conjuring nefarious plots persisted and in 2009
became the stuff of intense challenges to Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud
That was when Fatah co-founder Farouk Kadumi – who brands the
two-state solution “just a temporary phase” – showed Al Jazeera TV what he
asserted were protocols of a three-way collusion by Abbas, Arafat’s longtime
sidekick Muhammad Dahlan and then-prime minister Ariel Sharon to assassinate
To cleanse himself and counter the politically loaded charges,
Abbas recruited Bassam Abu Sharif, Arafat’s consigliore, nicknamed the “Face of
Terror.” But Abu Sharif’s tack was hardly to deny the calumny. He merely
modified it to place the culpability more squarely on Israel.
of a plot to murder Arafat are too good to pass up in a setting where fact and
fiction are intrinsically indistinguishable.
Since no one would anyhow
believe Arafat died a natural death, better just blame all foul-play on
In that spirit and with Abbas’s unstinted backing, Abu Sharif
claimed he knew for a fact that Israeli agents substituted toxins for
medications Arafat was taking. Moreover, the lethal Israeli concoctions were,
according to Ramallah’s officially sanctioned version of events, brewed
especially for this purpose by a leading Israeli pharmaceutical
Nobody asked how Abu Sharif came to possess this information,
whether he can back it up or why he chose to divulge it so late. Instead, all
delegates to the 2009 Fatah convention in Bethlehem – without a single skeptic
among them – raised their hands in favor of a resolution proclaiming that Israel
is responsible for Arafat’s “poisoning.”
The convention unanimously
demanded an international inquiry into Israel’s role in terminating the Nobel
But such slander is not the exception. It is the
Palestinian norm. In a 1999 ceremony welcoming America’s then-first lady Hillary
Clinton to Gaza, Suha Arafat railed in indignation: “Our people have been
subjected to the daily and extensive use of poisonous gas by the Israeli forces,
which has led to an increase in cancer cases among women and
Mrs. Arafat charged that Israel deliberately contaminated with
lethal toxins 80 percent of the water (not 79% or 81%) consumed by Palestinian
females and infants (but presumably not by adult males). Clinton uttered no
Herein lies the trouble. The failure of the international
community to object gives assorted canards legitimacy.
Hence Arab masses
are convinced that Israel was behind the 9/11 destruction of the Twin
Not only is invaluable energy expended on deception at the
expense of tackling real problems, but fantastic convolutions of trumped-up
cloak and dagger stories do not bolster the cause of true peace. Falsehoods
Where the culture of mendacity reigns, trustworthy accords
cannot grow. That is why the latest twist in the “Arafat assassination” tale