Was Arafat poisoned?By JANET OTIENO | Friday, July 6 2012 at 12:53
“I come bearing an olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter's gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."
This famous quote was by the late Palestinian leader and a Nobel Laureate Yasser Arafat. Revered by many Palestinians as a liberation hero who symbolised their national aspirations, he remains to some a very controversial figure whose legacy is disputed.
The grim reaper visited the Palestinian leader on November 11, 2004 and circumstances surrounding his demise in a Paris hospital have remained scanty if not suspicious eight years down the line.
At the moment, a Palestinian call for an international probe into Yasser Arafat's death has won backing from Tunisia after a report showed the iconic leader may have been poisoned.
The news had it that he died of a mysterious ailment even as one rumour had it that he had contracted HIV/Aids. HIV was found in his blood according to his doctor Ashraf al-Kurdi but did he really contract it?
Jordanian news site Amman quoted Dr al-Kurdi as saying that the virus was injected into his system towards his death. And after his death, his personal physician was not allowed access to his body raising more questions to his death.
Eight years down the line, a new revelation has come out that Arafat died from poisoning, that his death came as a result of exposure to very high levels of polonium-210, a rare radioactive substance. Al-Jazeera provided this new information after an investigation spanning nine months it funded.
According to the report, Arafat's personal belongings: his clothes, his kaffiyeh and toothbrush were examined in a laboratory - Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland - and polonium traces were found.
Reports have it that polonium-210 is not your ordinary over-the-counter drug since it is highly toxic. According to Justine Raimondo’s article in Antiwar.com, the only entities with access to this sort of poison are state actors, or, at the very least, a private organisation with very significant resources at its disposal.
Argonne National Laboratory website states that polonium can be taken into the body through food, drinking water, or the air we breathe. Between 50 per cent and 90 per cent of the polonium taken in by ingestion will promptly leave the body in faeces.
“The fraction remaining in the body enters the bloodstream. In general, the spleen and kidneys concentrate polonium more than other tissues except for temporary deposition in the lung after inhalation of an insoluble form. It is estimated that approximately 45 per cent of ingested polonium will be deposited in the spleen, kidneys, and liver, with 10 per cent deposited in bone marrow and the remainder distributed throughout the body. The amount of polonium in the body will decrease with a half-time of 50 days,” the website states.
Before his death, Arafat's compound was bombed several times by Israeli forces and at times, troops surrounded the place but he still came out stronger. The Palestinian leader had also survived numerous assassination attempts and repelled schemes by his enemies to remove him thus becoming a living symbol of the Palestinian struggle. Since his death, no other Palestinian has achieved such hero status.
As his death remains suspicious, there is a fresh twist in this poisoning saga as the world tries to find out the truth. There is a version that his former adviser alleged that he was poisoned by his sworn enemies who at one time detained the Palestinian ambulance carrying Arafat’s medicine.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation/Fatah, which Arafat headed, emerged from the underground as the most powerful and best organised of the groups fighting for the Palestinian. The PLO posed the greatest challenge to Israeli and even to some Arab regimes. There was no shortage of people who would have wanted him out of the way.
Most, if not all, fingers are pointing towards Tel Aviv given that at some point, Ariel Sharon’s regime announced its intention to "remove" Arafat who it claimed was an “obstacle” to reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis.
The question which now begs an answer is, did they mean ‘removing’ the obstacle by ‘transferring him into past tense.’ or just pushing him aside?
This can only be answered if his death is probed by an independent and neutral body and findings are made public.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Twitter: JanetOtieno
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