The Arafat “whodunit” Chapter 2

In chapter 1 we discussed uncertainties in the Swiss laboratory report which only “moderately” supports the polonium poisoning hypothesis while several experts reject it.  Reuters carried the headline:

“Evidence does not prove Arafat poisoning: Russian report”

and the Independent headlined:

“British expert says it’s ‘highly unlikely’ Arafat was poisoned”

Professor Nicholas Priest, former head of the biomedical research unit of the Atomic Energy Authority in Britain, told The Independent that the symptoms were very different from those of the Russian Alexander Litvinenko, who was killed by Polonium 210 in 2006.

The suspects
Ignoring the uncertainty about whether Arafat was indeed poisoned the PA and many journalists and politicians nevertheless cannot resist the temptation to accuse Israel of murder, notwithstanding the fact that at the time he was alleged to have been poisoned Arafat was constantly surrounded by his close aides. In the Guardian of November 8, 2013 Clayton Swisher wrote

“The Palestinian Authority has for years ducked the awkward questions about Arafat’s death. Don’t rely on it to find the truth”.

Swisher added that Tawfik Tirawi, who had been appointed to head an investigation into the death, squarely pointed the finger at Israel though there were many other possibilities that Swisher said Tirawi prefers to ignore. That he was in close proximity when Arafat fell ill, makes him at best a witness. For him to lead the investigation now is almost as farcical as the PA’s entire approach to date.

In looking for possible motives, assuming that Arafat was indeed murdered, certainly Israel had good reason to wish him dead. Arafat  was responsible for very many horrendous, senseless terrorist acts including the 1972 murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, bombings of uninvolved  civilians in restaurants, hotels and buses including babes  and  the elderly in which thousands were killed and maimed. But by 2004 when he was confined to his presidential muqata he had become a marginalized, isolated figure and an Israeli assassination would have been pointless.

On the other hand Arafat had many other enemies especially among his rivals in the PA and Hamas. He was responsible for several airplane hijackings and in Black September he was responsible for the rebellion in Jordan that killed thousands and ended when Jordan expelled Palestinians to Lebanon sparking the bloody civil war there.

Arafat’s widow Suha told Reuters she is certain someone in his close circle committed the crime. Speaking in Qatar after a tearful appearance on Al Jazeera she referred to Arafat’s death as a “political assassination”.

Mrs. Arafat’s accusation is not without support. A December 16, 2004 article in the Guardian refers to bizarre deathbed squabbles between Suha and Palestinian officials and asks

“did the officials, as Suha charged, try to hasten Arafat’s death? Or were her allegations part of a bid to obtain Palestinian funds?”

Dr. Dorgham Abu Ramadan, a German-trained cardiologist who had visited Arafat weekly in the muqata told the Guardian  that in Arafat’s last year

 “He was all the time angry, agitated, and afraid of a lot of people – that the people who worked with him were out to kill him..He was surrounded by a lot of – you’ll forgive me – assholes, and a lot of opportunistic people, incompetent people, so if you like you can even say he was lonely“.

Arafat’s personal physician, Omar Dakka, a Palestinian GP was on call 24 hours a day and Arafat was also in regular communication with Dr. Ashraf Al-Kurdi, a Jordanian neurologist who first treated him in 1992 and who is on record on Boni 123 Youtube stating that the Paris hospital told him that Arafat suffered from  AIDS.

A live Al Jazeera interview with Dr. Al-Kurdi was cut  short  when  he mentioned  HIV.

According to the Center for Investigative Journalism, US intelligence expert John Loftus said that the CIA knew that Arafat  was dying from AIDS.

Dr. Al-Kurdi Told the Guardian that Arafat didn’t trust many people; he didn’t like to see doctors because each one tried to give him a different medicine, and he was afraid to take the wrong one, because of poisoning

In an interview with Global Research in January 2005, Dr. Al-Kurdi said he was deliberately kept away from Arafat. He was told that Suha refused him access and that that when he was eventually called on the sixteenth day after Arafat’s illness he saw a group of Tunisian doctors sent by Suha without his knowledge. These people had not seen Arafat and had no idea about his health. He also saw four Egyptian doctors and three Palestinian doctors. None of them talked to him or asked any questions about Arafat’s health. There were strict instructions by his wife not to contact him.

He  told Suha that by sending the Tunisian doctors, she had delayed treatment by five or six days. The PA had no good answer- no one dared to say anything. He didn’t know why.

Suha’s relationship with the PA officials broke down when Arafat’s condition in the hospital went into a serious decline. She refused to allow further information on Arafat’s condition to be made public as she was entitled to do under French privacy laws. Leila Shahid, the Palestinian representative in Paris said that from the day Arafat went into a coma, Mrs Arafat told her no longer to speak to the press. In the view of some Palestinian officials Suha was trying to secure payments from the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian first lady had been under investigation for a year by the French authorities for €11.5m (£7.9m) in transfers made from Swiss accounts to her accounts in Paris.

On November 7, hospital authorities announced that Arafat’s coma had deepened; senior officials from the Palestinian Authority announced plans to come to Paris. The combination of events sent Suha “over the edge”. In a fury, she rang up the television station al-Jazeera, and accused the Palestinian Authority of willing her husband’s death. she said

“Let it be known to the honest Palestinian people that a bunch of those who want to inherit are coming to Paris trying to bury Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat] alive,”.

On the day Arafat died, Dr. Al-Kurdi announced in Amman that he had been blocked by Palestinian officials from visiting his patient for 13 days.

Why no Autopsy?
Recently Mrs. Arafat denied prevalent claims that she had refused an autopsy at the hospital. She said it was not suggested at the time.

The December 2004 Guardian article reports that according to Dr. Al Kurdi, there was a refusal by Mahmoud Abbas, to contemplate an autopsy.

“They didn’t want to do it. When you talked to them about an autopsy they would get fits, He [Abbas] said it would disturb relations with France.”

According to Islamic law, when the cause of death is questionable, an autopsy is required. Al-Kurdi requested four things: a committee to investigate his health and the progression of his illness. I wanted all results of the Paris tests and to see the French doctors. I asked for cause of death and if it was not identified to perform an autopsy.

All the leadership refused – those with him in Paris and Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. He said there is no need, he is already buried. I said “its not up to you.”

With regard to reports that the French government would be upset by an autopsy he said

“This is very stupid, I don’t think this would upset them. If someone dies of unknown causes, it is mandatory to have an autopsy- mandatory! They know the regulations. Here in Jordan, bodies have been exhumed many times in criminal cases.

In a Global research interview with Palestine Foreign Minister Nasser Al Kidwa on Sept 16, 2005 reference was made to Dr. Al-Kurdi’s request for an autopsy and he was asked whether the body would ever be exhumed to solve the mystery. He replied in the negative because of the social and religious reasons when dealing with a great man of this kind.  This is not something that Muslims would allow.

When the interviewer said Al-Kurdi claimed otherwise and that Arafat’s historical significance mandates the matter be resolved for posterity. Al Kidwa replied

“He can claim what he wants to claim.  I am telling my position.  This is the first reason.  The second reason is the limitation in our ability to know.  You take an autopsy and do what?  Send it to America so you can know the truth?”

In the last four weeks of Arafat’s life nearly fifty doctors from the PA, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, and France tried unsuccessfully to save him. They tested him for every known disease but every test came back negative. It is puzzling that even tests for radioelements conducted in Paris by the radio-toxicological  laboratory of the Service de Protection Radiologique des Armיes (SPRA) failed to detect the presence of polonium 210.

And most suspicious of all is the mysterious attitude of Arafat’s widow, his associates and the medical teams attending him.

Yasir Arafat’s personal doctor and life-long friend Al-Kurdi told the Australian  he was baffled and angered by the French medical team’s failure to diagnose Arafat’s illness.

“They did not care even to phone me and ask for his medical history ..I cannot understand this lack of explanation for his death. As is the case with any man who dies of unexplained causes, I feel an autopsy is needed.”

Christian Estripeau, the medical director at the Paris military hospital where Arafat died said French law barred him from responding to the charge that care was lacking.  He said

“Each of his doctors is free to do as he wishes but his medical record is sealed, and it will not be opened. I can’t tell you a thing from it.”

That despite being Arafat’s long-time doctor, Dr Al-Kurdi was excluded from contact with Mr Arafat in the early days of his illness and the failure to perform an autopsy raise very serious questions.

Chapter 3 will deal with the severe secrecy and the stubborn refusal to be interviewed by doctors who were involved with Arafat’s illness and his hospitalization.

About the Author
Maurice Ostroff is a founder member of the international Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, better known by its acronym CoHaV, (star in Hebrew), a world-wide umbrella organization of volunteers active in combating anti-Israel media and political bias and in promoting the positive side of Israel His web site is at