During a recent anniversary celebration of Yasser Arafat who died 12 years ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas mysteriously announced that he knew the identity of a supposed killer.
“You’ll find out at the earliest opportunity and be amazed when you know who did it,” Abbas said, opening up yet another enquiry into Arafat’s death. “I do not want to mention names, because these names do not deserve to be remembered.”
Arafat, president of the Palestinian National Authority and chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, died in a French hospital in November 2004 at age 75.
The theories surrounding the death of the Palestinian leader provide enough material for a movie of epic proportions. Most theories hypothesize poisoning. Among the accused are Palestinian leadership rivals, including Abbas himself and exiled leadership contender Mohammed Dahlan, and of course the Israeli spy agency, Mossad.
After becoming ill in Ramallah in October and receiving treatment from Egyptian, Jordanian and Tunisian medical teams, Arafat was moved to a military hospital near Paris. He suffered from a number of medical conditions and his health quickly deteriorated leading to a coma. French doctors stated that the underlying cause of his death was unclear, but ruled out poisoning.
While Mossad certainly had the capability to covertly poison Arafat, the motivation remains unclear considering Arafat was rendered ineffective at the time. Mossad was accused of using polonium 210, a radioactive substance used to kill Russian government critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 in London. However, French tests on the exhumed body in 2012 found no such trace, although Russian and Swiss investigations found traces on his personal belongings. Scientists have argued that the half-life of polonium undermines the credibility of the story because the substance would have deteriorated at a much faster rate over eight years and its presence in such quantity indicates that it was planted.
Another theory holds that Abbas is ready to accuse one of his rivals of killing Arafat and conspiring with Israelis to remove opposition.
It may simply be that Arafat’s health declined dramatically. Observers have suggested a number of possible causes of death. Most notably John Loftus of ABC Radio mentioned AIDS, claiming that the CIA was aware of Arafat’s condition and that, due to his deterioration, made him harmless rendering Israeli action against him unnecessary.
Indeed, an AIDS diagnosis might explain his wife Suha Arafat initially refused to allow an autopsy, although she did finally agree to later investigation.
During Arafat’s recent 12th anniversary commemoration, Abbas’ speech to thousands in Ramallah called for an end to the Israeli “occupation.” It remains to be seen whether he will reveal any credible evidence about his theory.