The strange death of Yasser Arafat

The investigation into the alleged poisoning of the late Palestinian leader leaves many questions unanswered.

Arafat's coffin in France
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in France in November 2004 [PA/GALLO/GETTY]

Bradford, United Kingdom – I was 23 years old when I first met Yasser Arafat and I was at the Percy military hospital when he died. I had been with him in the ruins of his various headquarters in Beirut, Tunis and Ramallah. I loved him as if he were my father, and have remained his loyal supporter all my life.

So the news, broken by Al Jazeera, that he may have been murdered using Polonium-210 – the weapon of choice used to kill Alexander Litvinenko after tea in a central London hotel with, we were told, a former colleague of his from the KGB, is of personal as well as political importance to me.
In the case of Litvinenko, we were assured by all news media that only a state actor with access to nuclear weapons could possibly have the means of carrying out this crime. The same media outlets are currently ignoring the inconvenient truth that one such state actor with both a long track record of murdering its opponents and access to the requisite nuclear material is Israel, which, shortly before the death of Arafat – from the mouths of both Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert – told the world that their earlier undertakings to the United States not to harm Arafat were null and void, with Shaton saying that the Palestinian leader had “no insurance policy” against Israeli action.

Click here for AL Jazeera’s full investigation

The Al Jazeera report drew heavily on the hitherto silent widow of the late Palestinian leader, Suha Arafat. She provided the program investigators with his underwear, socks, toothbrush, even his ubiquitous kaffeyah which were then tested by a leading Swiss laboratory.

All showed that the Palestinian icon was positively glowing with radioactive material. Those of us who were at the hospital when Arafat died were in no doubt whatsoever that he had been poisoned. The only conversation between us – his veteran comrades – was on the subject of by whom?

The spectacularly quick physical degeneration – he was like a bird in his death bed rather than the man we knew – so obviously pointed to assassination that the first question which arises from this programme is: why has this taken so long? The second is: how come the French didn’t rumble this in their internationally famous hospital? The third is: why was there no post-mortem held on the demise of this crucially important Middle Eastern leader, who had died so suddenly and mysteriously? The fourth is: why did the French authorities destroy the specimen blood, urine, sweat and all other results of his tests – when under French custom and practice they should have been held for ten years?
But there are other questions, closer to Arafat’s home. If Israel murdered Arafat – a reasonable working hypothesis in the circumstances – how did they get close enough to the president, holed up in the ruins of his Ramallah compound, in order to do so?

“Did they have … accomplices at the Palestinian Authority court, and, if so, are these accomplices still there – and who are they? Why did the PA accept this extraordinarily suspicious death so tamely?”

Did they have friends and accomplices at the Palestinian Authority court, and, if so, are these accomplices still there – and who are they? Why did the PA accept this extraordinarily suspicious death so tamely?

And will they now agree – as leading Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, and, crucially, Arafat’s widow Suha have now demanded –  to exhume the president’s body from his Ramallah tomb, so that it can be examined for the nuclear murder weapon?
Western countries have been conveniently fixated by the murder most foul of former Lebanese leader Rafiq al-Hariri – a crime they have variously tried to pin, first on Syria and then the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah. Will they now show the same energy in seeking answers to the supposition that Israel made highly unconventional use of its vast, secret, entirely western-sponsored nuclear firepower to eliminate the Nobel Peace prize winner Yasser Arafat?

George Galloway is a British politician, activist, author, journalist and broadcaster. He is the Respect member of parliament for Bradford West.