In an explosive new eBook, DeltaFourth reveals for the first time the murderous story behind the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Investigating allegations that Yasser Arafat was murdered, DeltaFourth traced the leads through Ramallah, Gaza, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, uncovering a plot that reached to his inner circle.
THE WIDOW screamed like a banshee down the phone line, live on an Arab cable news show: “They’re killing Abu Amar.”
It was November 2004. The widow was Suha Arafat and Abu Amar was her husband. He was probably already dead by the time his wife was bellowing out her rage over the airwaves.
He was known to most of the world as Yasser Arafat.
And “they” were killing him.
Journalists are great respecters of the most likely version, so most didn’t buy what Suha said. Some wrote that the poor woman was overwrought. Most figured she was a money-grubbing bitch who had just learned that the Palestine Liberation Organization leaders wouldn’t allow her to keep the hundreds of millions of dollars “the Old Man” had salted away. Yelling like a toddler who’s stubbed her toe looked to be nothing more than a pressure play to extract more cash. Perhaps it was. But the pressure wasn’t just about showing that Arafat’s colleagues were leaving his widow and daughter high and dry. It was to signal that she wouldn’t shut up about what she knew. Which was that Yasser Arafat, 75 years old and for 45 years the symbol of the Palestinian people, was dying of poisoning at the Percy Military Hospital near Paris. And that the poisoners were among those closest to him.
The Ra’is, the Chief, as Palestinians called Arafat, was originally said to have died of a blood disease, of cirrhosis, of cancer, even of AIDS. Suha’s initial actions didn’t help make the true cause of death clear or official. She refused to allow French authorities to carry out an autopsy. Maybe she didn’t trust the French pathologists who’d be cutting a big Y-incision down the front of her husband’s meager torso. Maybe she knew enough about the history of the PLO in Europe to understand she couldn’t trust anyone. But in the months before he flew off to Paris to die, Arafat sat in the bunker of his Ramallah headquarters, unwashed and unloved, suspected by the men around him, and finally denied access to his regular Jordanian doctor. After his death, one of his erstwhile security chiefs went through his office and his adjoining apartment to snap up all his medications and used medicine bottles, so no one would know what potions Arafat had been fed. Even before he died, Palestinians talked of a poison plot –– by Israel, of course. Yet one of Arafat’s specialties had been rubbing out inconvenient Palestinians –– enemies and allies –– without leaving his own fingerprints at the scene. Finally, it seems, those around him took a leaf out of his book.
Yasser Arafat was poisoned under the noses of men who continue to lead their people or to be thought of as future Palestinian statesmen. DeltaFourth reveals how it happened.
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YASSER ARAFAT was steadily less together from 2001 at least –– maybe even a couple of years earlier, when U.S. mediators at peace talks with Israel first noticed that his English wasn’t as good as it used to be. But you couldn’t confine the man who was “married to Palestine” to a back room and he wouldn’t step aside into a supporting role. True, he was ageing, but his basic health was still sound. In the end, he made his people suffer through every stage of his decline.
For his last few years, Arafat spent almost all his time in the Muqata, a stolid building in Ramallah that had been built by the British as a headquarters for their local governor and was taken over later by Jordan and Israel. Eventually it was handed over to Arafat’s new Palestinian Authority, when he returned from exile in 1994 to found a state.
What kind of pseudo-state did he set up for his people? We’ll get to that. First, what kind of state was Arafat in during those last years?
DeltaFourth was there. We walked through the violent streets of Ramallah during the intifada. We passed the Israeli tanks that stood guard over the Muqata, a couple hundred yards from where the famous man sat in his olive fatigues and his black and white keffiyeh. We stepped around the rubble and the trash and the exhausted gunmen with heavy eyelids and light trigger fingers, through the compound and into the presidential building.
Inside, we found the top military and political and money men of the PLO, hushed and nervous. They told of a Chairman who was falling apart. For example, Arafat always wore a second keffiyeh around his neck, tucked into his shirt like an ascot. “He hasn’t washed it in months,” one of his senior generals told us. “He –– he smells bad.”
The Palestinian Authority had collapsed around Arafat as the violence of the intifada swept 3,000 of his people to their deaths and drew Israeli tanks into every town and village. To the dismay of the top men around him, Arafat chanted daily about the “millions of martyrs” he expected––though in reality by the time of his death Palestinians had ceased to court death and were hunkered down for the end of a rising they acknowledged was a mistake. “He’s always talking about the old days in Beirut, when he was in his bunker,” one of his police chiefs told us. “He thinks this situation is the same.”
Arafat was nostalgic for the days twenty years before when, as he saw it, he had faced down Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and the might of the Israel Defense Forces after its invasion of Lebanon. But this was Ramallah, and he wasn’t a guerrilla leader any more. At least, he wasn’t supposed to be. He had taken $4 billion in foreign aid over the previous decade that was supposed to prove it.
In his head, it seemed to those around him, Arafat had regressed to an easier time, when he wasn’t forced to make the hard compromises of a head of state. When the radical revolutionary chic of the PLO drew visitors like Vanessa Redgrave and Orianna Fallacci and the admiration of the IRA and the Red Brigades. Reality had changed, but Arafat didn’t acknowledge it. Like any other dictator, he lacked people close to him who dared expose the emperor’s nakedness.
Jibril Rajoub, the former head of Arafat’s West Bank plainclothes police, was one of the few who ever came close to telling Arafat what he really thought. (When young Suha first came to see Arafat in his Tunis exile, he asked Rajoub to pick her up at the airport. “I don’t chauffeur whores,” Rajoub snapped back.) Personally charming in a gruff way, he was also a thug who ran shakedown operations on rich West Bankers, jailing them until they paid ludicrous “tax demands.” Under the bizarre economic agreements hammered out between Israel and the Palestinians as part of the Oslo peace accords, Rajoub controlled the gasoline monopoly in the West Bank, raking off millions to fund a state security service that was little more than his own private militia. He sent his men to the U.S. for training from the Central Intelligence Agency. He was powerful –– and yet somehow impotent in the face of the father figure Arafat was to him. In 2001, during a furious confrontation in Arafat’s office, the Old Man drew his gun and pointed it at Rajoub, accusing him of seeking to replace him as Palestinian leader.
One night in 2004, when the peace process had long collapsed and Arafat was in evident decline in his headquarters in Ramallah, a Palestinian friend of DeltaFourth was on the phone with Rajoub. He tired of Rajoub’s complaints about the Chief’s refusal to listen to reason, to change the course of the intifada, to try a new strategy. To take control.
“So kill him then,” our friend said, impatiently.
“You’re crazy,” said Rajoub.
“I’m sick of hearing all you top people saying that Arafat’s content for us to encounter new disasters. You have guns. You’re allowed access to Arafat. Go in there and put a gun to his head and shoot him. Act quickly, and you can take over. But do something.”
“You’re really crazy.” Rajoub hung up.
You just don’t have the balls, our friend thought.
But someone did. Someone saw how desperate the situation was. Someone understood that the Americans were finished with Arafat, and that Ariel Sharon –– now Prime Minister –– was building his “security barrier” around the West Bank so that the Palestinians wouldn’t be able to make Israelis bleed while the Palestinians fought out the succession to Arafat. Someone decided the Palestinians needed a state after all.
And for that, Arafat had to go.
The Murder of Yasser Arafat by Matthew Kalman and Matt Rees (DeltaFourth) is available through Amazon
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