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The Murder of Yasser Arafat

Eric Margolis

 by Eric Margolis

In 2004, shortly after the mysterious death of PLO leader Yasser Arafat, I wrote a column stating my strong belief that he had been murdered by poison. I recalled Stalin’s favorite line, “no man, no problem.”

Poison had been a favorite tool of the Soviet secret police since the 1920’s. Steps from KGB headquarters at the Lubyanka was the top secret laboratory known as the “kamera” where scientists concocted new, complex poisons designed to be very lethal but untraceable, or extremely hard to identify.

Numbers of Ukrainian nationalists were murdered by use of pens emitting a vapor of quick-acting cyanide gas that left the victims appearing to have died of heart attacks. Later, the kamera produced an even more lethal pellet filled with the deadly castor-bean extract, ricin. A Bulgarian defector, Georgi Markov, died after a ricin pellet was jabbed into his leg in London, the famous “umbrella murder.”

In 2009, Israeli agents of Mossad sprayed a poison liquid into the left ear of Palestinian Hamas leader, Khaled Mashall. He only escaped death when Israel was forced to provide an antidote. The US CIA had its own poison lab that was revealed by the 1975 Church Committee investigation.

Two other poisonings made use of advanced toxins:

In 2004, Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yuschenko was poisoned with dioxin boosted with other adjuvants to make it extremely difficult to trace and highly toxic. Yuschenko survived thanks to German medical help, but was left terribly disfigured.

Two years later in London, a former Russian intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko, was poisoned, the second use of polonium-210. He had become a fierce critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Russian intelligence was widely believed to have staged the gruesome attack as a warning to potential turncoats.

Last week, Swiss forensic scientists from the respected University of Lausanne confirmed that both Arafat’s belongings and his recently exhumed body were contaminated by radioactive polonium-210.

In spite of the lapse of four years since Arafat’s murder, the Swiss scientists found in a 108-page report a high level of polonium at least eight times higher than would be normally present. The always cautious Swiss said there was “moderate support” for the claim Arafat had indeed been murdered. While he had certainly been poisoned by polonium, they were unable to positively prove the toxin had killed him, though his dose was well beyond lethal.

The Swiss report, originally commissioned by Arafat’s wife Suha and al-Jazeera, ignited a political fire storm. Palestinians have long accused Israel of murdering Arafat. Israel’s intelligence service Mossad and warplanes have killed over a score of senior PLO leaders in the past three decades. Many attempts had been made by Israel on Arafat’s life.

Israel denies the murder, though some of its leaders have openly stated their desire to “liquidate” Arafat. Israel is the only Mideast nation that can produce polonium-210 in its reactors. Still, Israel insists it was not responsible, though no tears were shed over Arafat’s death. Israel says the culprits were Palestinian rivals.

Who benefitted from Arafat’s death? Arafat had been bitterly resisting US and Israeli efforts to impose a grossly unfair peace deal that would have broken up the West Bank into little Arab tribal reservations. Once Arafat was out of the way, the US and Israel swiftly installed a new, servile PLO leadership, headed by a yes-man, Mahmoud Abbas, financed by the US and protected by CIA-run police.

At the time of his death, Arafat had been prisoner for two years in his West Bank compound at Ramallah, surrounded by Israeli troops and tanks. A close Palestinian aid must have secreted the poison in Arafat’s food. Other senior Palestinians were also likely involved in the plot – par for the course in the Mideast. But a big finger of suspicion still points directly at the US and Israel.

France, which gave medical aid to the dying Arafat, obscured the cause of death. Russia, also examined the Arafat evidence, is making contradictory claims. Mahmoud Abbas’ government has tried to cover up the crime for years. Even Arafat’s widow initially refused an autopsy for murky reasons.

If the murder of Arafat is confirmed, Israel may be hauled into the International Criminal Court. The US will get ultimate blame.


© 2021 Eric Margolis
Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is "American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World."

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