The first part of this post detailed a story about an anonymous intelligence officer describing to me how and why the Mossad had gone about assassinating Yasser Arafat. For those to whom it wasn’t clear, the story was made up. It was, however, believable enough that minutes after writing the post the editorial team at the Times of Israel needed to make changes to the post in order to make sure that it was understood to be a hoax story. In spite of these changes I still received phone calls from people asking me to reveal my source, if the story was real and for as much additional information as I would give them, one angry commenter went so far as to write the following:

“In the United States we have “supermarket checkout tabloids” like the National Enquirer that publish fictional news such as “Elvis returns to earth in a spaceship”. Times of Israel is apparently in this category, except worse. You like to publish inflammatory fantasies that will cause the peoples of a volatile region to hate each other even more than they already do. Shame on you.”

The reason for the indignation and for the changes made are clear and I need not go into them too much except to say that there was a point behind it. In my story I offered no proof, named no source, I offered no evidence of any kind to anyone that what I was saying was true and even the big fat disclaimer at the bottom of the page didn’t stop the above commenter’s anger at the Times of Israel. The point is clear, assertions can be dangerous, regardless of whether there is any proof behind them.

Though there’s nothing new about people loving conspiracy theories, to the best of my knowledge no government has ever desecrated the grave of their most revered leader on the basis of one. Until now.

Incredibly, 8 years after his death, Yasser Arafat’s wife Suha Arafat, the woman who refused permission for an autopsy of her husband’s body when he died, has changed her mind and opened an investigation now. A French court will be looking into the events surrounding the death of the man more connected to the Palestinian cause than any other.

It’s happening now on the basis of an Al Jazeera documentary that claims to have found traces of Polonium 210 (a radioactive isotope used to assassinate former KGB operative Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006) on Arafat’s clothing. Steps are now being taken to exhume Arafat’s body to test for this radioactive substance.

According to an article in Time Magazine “The Swiss lab said the traces of Polonium-210 it discovered were not conclusive proof that Arafat was poisoned.” So the very evidence upon which the investigation is being opened is not actual proof according to the same lab that found it in the first place. This admission from the lab has fallen on deaf ears. Already the conspiracy theory has evolved into conspiracy fact in the minds of all those who want to believe that there is something more to Arafat’s death. Apparently Palestinians will gladly suffer the indignity to Arafat of his body being exhumed in order to satisfy their curiosity.

Suspicion as to who killed Arafat hasn’t just fallen on Israelis. Palestinians now have no option but to participate in this farce or risk their silence being viewed as ‘proof’ of involvement. Qaddoura Fares the senior Fatah official now responsible for the welfare of the 4,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons told the British newspaper The Independent “If I am asked to go to Paris and be questioned, and I refuse, then I might as well kill myself.”

This is the curse of the conspiracy theory, the only proof anyone needs of validity is for people to refuse to participate in the witch hunt. Anyone can create a conspiracy theory, even a blogger on a website without any sources. But what happens when a conspiracy theory is turned into a real life cause?

I guess we’re about to find out.