The Spirit Level office is still reeling from the recent allegations resulting from Al Jazeera’s new report that claims to provide fresh details surrounding Arafat’s death. Though this most recent report, and the events surrounding it have come as a surprise to us- the claim that Arafat was assassinated is something that we have heard time and again from many trusted sources.
Yesterday evening, news network Al Jazeera published the results of a nine month investigation focussed on the circumstances surrounding the late death of the iconic Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, in a Paris hospital in 2004.
This investigation, closely involving the President’s widow, Suha Arafat, has provoked new questions, which many believe were not adequately answered after Yasser Arafat’s death, over eight years ago.
Though the Al Jazeera report presents new evidence from tests conducted on Arafat’s belongings by a Swiss laboratory, these revelations still fail to provide answers to some key questions, including;
- What were Arafat’s symptoms in the Muq’ata before his collapse?
- Why take him to Paris for treatment?
- Why did the PA keep quiet if they suspected poison from the start?
- Why did the French authorities keep quiet?
- Why was an autopsy not conducted at the time?
The answers to all these questions are provided in ‘The Price of Kings: Yasser Arafat’
When filming our in depth documentary about Arafat’s life, we interviewed all of those who sat vigil at the leader’s deathbed and several of those who had lived alongside him during the siege of the Muqata.
Our interviewees were unanimous that his death was unnatural, that the French had made it clear his body contained a toxic material that did not show up in their tables of substances but that the French did not feel able to take the ‘political responsibility’ to make an accusation of poisoning.
Nasser al Qidwa, Yasser Arafat's nephew told us:
“They (The French) said two important things, they said in their report that, again this, this situation can not be explained, through the medical science and further more they said that the main problem was the breaking down of blood platelets. And they explained in their report that this normally is the result of one of three possibilities. One, cancer, and the report affirms that this is not the case. Two, generalized acute infection, and the report affirms that this is not the case. And through, and three, poison, and the report says that we didn't find any poison known to us”
With this knowledge the PA made a collective decision to stay quiet too – why, you might ask, with such an explosive political accusation?
Senior Palestinian official and close friend to Yasser Arafat, Nabil Shaath, told us:
“(We) Did not push for an autopsy. The French report was clear he was poisoned. There was a toxic element that led to his death that they couldn't identify cause it wasn't in there tables. But before that Khaled Meshaal was poisoned in Jordan and the antidote came because King Hussain insisted on an Israeli antidote. No body new what kind of poison, what kind of toxic material that was. And therefore really, we had really information that the French had collected. But the French would not go a step further and to say that that was actually an assassination…..there was a diplomatic problem, there was also a difficulty of proving how that toxic material ever got to the innards, inside the, our dying president. And also, our country really was in turmoil and to try to link the information about the French medical report with actual criminal information about the actual poisoning incidence would have created a whole problem. Internal problem, and problem with Israelis. It might have even just killed the last possibilities of a peace process that would bring back and independent Palestinian State. The leadership too the decision to form a medical inquiring council to go into the causes of the death of Arafat but there was never a decision to conduct an autopsy.…..at that time we wanted to keep the whole nation united. We wanted the whole world to remain engaged with us. We wanted to keep whatever hope there was for a peace process that will end our occupation and bring freedom and liberty to our people. And I, probably Yasser Arafat would have really made the same decision”
Despite these new insights provided to us during filming, there are still many unanswered questions around the death of Palestine’s beloved leader, which may never be answered.
- If Polonium was the substance that killed Arafat, why was no-one else in the Compound affected?
- If he was poisoned – who did it, and why? Arafat certainly had many enemies both from foreign and domestic sources so was the plot a single group or a collaborative effort?
- Why did Al Jazeera choose to release this information now – in an increasingly divisive and explosive atmosphere on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank?
Suha’s conclusion in ‘The Price of Kings: Yasser Arafat’ may still be the very best summation of the situation we have.