New rumors threaten violence
- Last Updated: 11:42 PM, July 6, 2012
- Posted: 10:10 PM, July 6, 2012
After eight years in the grave, Yasser Arafat threatens to trigger a new round of Mideast bloodshed.
Al-Jazeera this week ran an “investigative” piece claiming that enough traces of polonium-210 had been found in Arafat’s effects to conclude that he might have been poisoned before his 2004 death of a stroke in a Paris military hospital.
The Qatar-based channel and its Web sites have kept it up with a daily drumbeat of emerging “new” details. The Palestinian press followed, in typical fashion, with wild accusations of their own.
True or not, it’s a fine yarn — and, since Israel is the only Mideast power with enough polonium, its intelligence agents become the prime suspects for the dirty deed.
It all apparently started when Arafat’s widow, Suha, allowed her dead hubby’s dirty laundry to be examined by Europe’s “best” toxicologists, as Al-Jazeera terms them. (Why she had such belongings eight years after the fact, and why she thought to have them checked now, remain open questions.)
The Swiss lab examined urine and blood samples from clothes of the long-dead man and found an “elevated” presence of polonium. It clearly stated that its findings were “inconclusive,” but so what? Arafat is again topping the region’s headlines, and Israel killed Yasser is the talk of the West Bank’s towns.
Jerusalem officials deny any connection, for all the good that will do them. And never mind that polonium would be the last poison Israel would use if it really wanted to kill Arafat.
After all, everyone knows the Russian government used polonium to kill defector Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. The former KGB agent, his hair already gone and quickly fading as England’s best doctors could do nothing to save him, publicly fingered his ex-employers for the hit.
And everyone knew that was the point: The spectacular death was a warning to all would-be defectors that Moscow never forgets and that they’re not safe — not in London, not anywhere.
That is, Litvinenko’s death, and the identity of his assassins, were highly visible by design.
By contrast, Israel’s prime minister in 2004, Ariel Sharon, reportedly opposed aides who thought the time was ripe to do away with Arafat. His argument: It would lead to martyrdom and turn the entire world against Israel.
So, even if Sharon ended up changing his mind and opted for poison-kill after all (highly unlikely), he’d have wanted an untraceable toxin to turn suspicion away from Israel.
Never mind, too, that none of Litvinenko’s tell-tale symptoms of polonium kill (hair loss, bone-marrow deterioration) were found in Arafat’s body. Or that toxin experts highly doubt that polonium traces can last this long.
Back in 2004, in fact, French authorities reported finding no toxins during their treatment of Arafat. His personal physician said in a televised interview that the Palestinian leader (long rumored to be a homosexual) had died of AIDS.
And Suha (long rumored to be siphoning Palestinian funds to her private bank accounts) declined an autopsy. But rumors of poisoning never died, and now Suha wants the body exhumed. (Perhaps she fears that her generous pension from the bankrupt Palestinian Authority, $120,000 a month by some reports, is in peril.)
She’ll apparently get her wish: Palestinian Authority bigwigs, eager to change the subject from the West Bank’s fast-deteriorating economy and their own general fecklessness, enthusiastically support the dig-up. The West Bank’s top imam has ruled that Allah wouldn’t object.
And while we see Arafat as a master terrorist (next month marks the 40thanniversary of the Munich Olympics massacre), for Palestinians he’s the father of their nation.
Foreign dignitaries visiting the West Bank are hustled to the Ramallah mausoleum where motionless guards stand erect by the eternal flame burning at Arafat’s tomb.
With Al-Jazeera’s West Bank watchers increasingly broke and restless, disappointed in their leaders and looking to channel their anger, some Israeli officials fear that the flimsiest “proof” of a poisoning may spark a new intifada.
Arafat will be so pleased, he might even rise from the dead.Follow @NYPostOpinion