French paper asserts officials know more about Arafat's death than told
French newspaper Le Figaro carried a piece today, citing an unnamed official, that asserts details of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's 2004 death have been concealed.
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Arafat’s death swirled in controversy and conspiracy for a decade, with the youthful Suha consistently alleging he was poisoned, though her initial accusations were against other Palestinians.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet polonium is regarded as a substance unlikely to be procured by Arafat’s Palestinian enemies. Israel is one of a handful of states, including Russia, capable of making it; Israel’s Dimona reactor is not under international safeguards. (Some French and Arab blogs this week suggest that Palestinians hired knowingly or unknowingly by Israeli intelligence could have smuggled the polonium into Arafat’s compound during the long siege.)
French media in 2004 at the time of Arafat’s death ran stories citing allegations of foul play, some of which emerged from Arafat’s coterie of friends and his widow. Leila Shadid, Palestinian representative to France at the time, and now representative in Brussels, would not rule out the possibility of assassination. French president Jacques Chirac, a close friend of Arafat and a sympathizer of his cause, told Suha there was something strange about her husband’s death but that it was a mystery and likely to remain one.
But the assassination or poisoning hypothesis was quickly hushed in the French media at the time of Arafat's death. The left-leaning Liberation argued that unsubstantiated rumors and festering anger threatened relations between Arabs and Muslims and Jews in France. A number of intellectuals and prominent Jewish leaders, in Le Monde and other papers, said the allegations raised anti-Semitic clichés from the Middle Ages, and that the Arafat assassination theory allowed anti-Semites to air their hatred in what appeared a legitimate manner.
“Even mentioning the hypothesis became very sensitive,” says a French source. The clinching argument was finally that no traces of poison were found, something Al Jazeera says it may have upended.
Arafat became seriously ill in late October 2004 following three years of an Israeli army siege at his Palestinian Authority headquarters. When some 20 Palestinian doctors failed to make a diagnosis, he was evacuated to France and put in intensive care at Percy military hospital in Clamart, south of Paris. He died November 11, 2004, aged 75. The public medical report indicated a destruction of red blood cells as a cause of death, but no cause of illness was forthcoming despite constant tests. Suha refused a posthumous exam saying that tests had already been made on him, and then she refused to release any but a general medical report for reasons unknown.