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