Inside the Arafat Assassination Conspiracies (NY) TIMES) By HARVEY MORRIS / BLOG London, England 07/06/12)
NEW YORK TIMES
NEW YORK TIMES Articles-Index-Top
LONDON - I watched Yasir Arafat´s final homecoming to Ramallah in
November 2004 from Bassam Abu Sharif´s roof.
Mr. Abu Sharif, the Palestinian leader´s long-time political adviser,
was too overcome with grief at the time to discuss his theories about
his hero´s death. "I still can´t believe it," he told me on that
day. "The world without Arafat is a different place."
It was not long, however, before Mr. Abu Sharif emerged as a
prominent spokesman for what rapidly became a near-universal
consensus among Palestinians that their leader had been murdered.
That theory may finally be laid to rest - or maybe not - after the
Palestinian Authority decided, in principle, to exhume Mr. Arafat´s
remains, possibly within days, following a claim that he might have
been poisoned with polonium, a radioactive element.
The suggestion was raised in a report this week by Al Jazeera that
cited findings by doctors at the University of Lausanne´s Institute
of Radiation Physics.
They were said to have identified unusually high levels of polonium
210 in personal items belonging to Mr. Arafat and provided by his
As my colleague Isabel Kerschner wrote from Jerusalem, the report
caused an uproar in the Palestinian territories, "rekindling
unresolved questions about the death and theories that he had been
killed by agents of Israel or by Palestinian rivals."
The polonium theory appears to be at odds with an earlier claim by
Mr. Abu Sharif that Mr. Arafat was poisoned with thallium, a
colorless, tasteless odorless compound.
The former adviser wrote in a 2009 book that he had suspected
poisoning even during Mr. Arafat´s 2004 illness. The two men had been
close. Mr. Abu Sharif, once involved in a notorious airline hijacking
and later disfigured by a Mossad bomb in 1972, became an architect of
the Palestinian leader´s strategy in the late 1980s to open
negotiations with Israel.
"I was positive they were poisoning his food on a daily basis and
doing it right under our very eyes," he wrote in Arafat and the Dream
Early last year, he put forward his thallium claim, basing it on
tests carried out by "the most prominent forensic toxicology expert
in the U.K.," whom he did not name.
(For the benefit of conspiracy theorists and others, thallium was the
favored poison of Saddam Hussein´s assassins, while polonium - hard
to obtain without access to nuclear technology - was linked to the
2006 death of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. agent and
critic of the Russian government.)
Israel´s Jerusalem Post came up with its own conspiracy theory this
week, claiming Mr. Abu Sharif´s contributions to the poisoning debate
were part of an attempt to pin blame on Israel and divert any
possible link to Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Arafat´s successor as president
of the Palestinian Authority.
An Al Jazeera report in 2009 quoted Farouk Qaddumi, a senior exiled
Fatah dissident, accusing Mr. Abbas of having conspired with Israel
to kill Mr. Arafat. The broadcast led to a ban on Al Jazeera in the
"To cleanse himself and counter the politically loaded charges, Abbas
recruited Bassam Abu Sharif, Arafat´s consigliore, nicknamed
the ´Face of Terror´," The Jerusalem Post wrote in an editorial on
Wednesday. "But Abu Sharif´s tack was hardly to deny the calumny. He
merely modified it to place the culpability more squarely on Israel."
None of which proves, of course, that Mr. Arafat was not poisoned.
One thing is for certain. Even if the exhumation goes ahead and the
autopsy comes up clean, many Palestinians, including no doubt Bassam
Abu Sharif, will refuse to accept that the leader of the Palestinian
revolution passed away without someone´s helping hand. (Copyright
2012 The New York Times Company 07/06/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY