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January 19, 2017 / 21 Tevet, 5777
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Yasir Arafat Is Still Dead and We Know Who Really Did Him In

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This article was first published here.

Yasir Arafat is still dead. True, he was once alive. I sat across from him in his Gaza office, for example. And he even had a copy of my history of the PLO on his book shelf so he must have been of sound mind at the time.  It’s not my fault. I told him to start jogging and cut down on sweets.But he didn’t listen. On November 4, 2004, he died, a fate he previously delivered to thousands of far more innocent people.

The effort now by various Palestinian factions to imply Israel killed him is the funniest thing in the Middle East since the CIA director’s congressional briefing when he said the Muslim Brotherhood was a secular democratic organization. What’s dismaying is how much play Western media are giving this charge as if it should be taken seriously. When the West behaves in this way it signals at the least a dangerously naive credulousness and amnesia; at worst, it signals a profound anti-Jewish and anti-Israel complex on their part.

But there’s something else in this story, something very chilling indeed. Revolutionary Islamists especially, but many Muslims otherwise, believe that Jews tried to murder Muhammad, the founder of Islam, and even if they failed that the poison shortened his life. The accusation that Jews are the murderer of prophets–with Muslims throwing in the founder of Christianity also–is a phrase that derives from this story. It is frequently heard from Hamas and others. This is a blood libel, an alleged crime that then leads to the view that Jews are absolutely evil and should be wiped out. In short, it is a rationale for genocide. When Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhood say that Israel should be wiped off the map and Jews generally should be murdered that incitement is the inevitable consequence of this line of thinking.

That Western observers are unaware of all of this history, and repeated every day in inciteful sermons found often in Middle East mosques, is quite evident. Such a lack of knowledge leads them to believe that the conflicts they say are easily resolvable, quickly settled by more Israeli concessions or still continuing because of Israeli actions when the causes are much deeper and the solutions far more remote. Western societies today are obsessed with searching everywhere for racism and hate speech. Well, the idea that the Jews murdered Arafat (rather than that Arafat spent most of his career murdering Jews) falls into that category.

As for the specific claims in the Arafat case, they are easily disposed of:

First of all, anyone who saw Arafat during the last year of his life knew he was seriously ill and steadily worsening. His lips trembled, he looked disoriented, and he wasn’t as articulate as usual.  Even on television you couldn’t possibly miss his distress.

His doctors obviously knew that he was in bad shape. But, and this is what’s most important, they didn’t do anything about it. The prospect of Arafat’s death was so traumatic for the movement—which had known no other leader during 43 years for Fatah, 36 years for the PLO, and its entire ten year life for the Palestinian Authority. By not taking serious action and giving him better treatment, the key to the mystery is this: His own doctors and movement killed Arafat. So if Israel killed Arafat then his own doctors and the entire PLO, Fatah, and PA leadership were in on the conspiracy. Indeed, Arafat himself, by not more actively seeking medical help or speaking about his problems was also in on the conspiracy. This is unlikely.

Second, the doctors were shut up and the report of his death was kept secret by Arafat’s widow Suha Arafat. Since his colleagues had access to a lot of this information they also kept quiet. In other words, we are supposed to believe that those who in the world who most hated Israel had evidence that Israel had something to do with his death but they kept it secret?

Third, suddenly, almost eight years later Suha and other Arafat loyalists are making claims. But there is no new evidence whatsoever. Obviously, this is a publicity stunt. Let them release the huge medical report on his death. Let them permit the French doctors to have a press conference. Let them dig up Arafat. Until one of those things happens why should the Western media fall for this trick? So again, if there was the slightest suspicion that Arafat was being murdered, Arafat’s wife, doctors, and all of the Palestinian leadership were helping the conspiracy. This is also unlikely.

Fourth, the claims that Arafat was poisoned by Israel using some exotic radioactive means has been made from the day Arafat was planted but have always faded away, at least internationally, because no evidence was offered.  Old fables are being treated like new revelations. Such claims of Zionist conspiracies are always promoted in order to slander and discredit Israel when just about anyone significant dies in the Arab world.

Fifth, if Arafat had been poisoned by radioactive substances his symptoms would have been extreme and evident. Moreover, Arafat would have died really fast, but he lingered for a long time.

The history of this myth shows that it is the Palestinian leadership, not Israel, that has something to hide, that has kept everything secret. I suspect the secret is the incompetence of his own doctors.

So did Arafat die of AIDs? After my own serious research on this matter I could find no evidence for this assertion. And I know that both Israeli and U.S. intelligence had no evidence that Arafat was homosexual either. The rumor began with an article by Oriana Fallaci whose only evidence was that his bodyguards at the time were extremely handsome young men. (By the time I was seeing him in the 1990s that was certainly not true at all.)

Of course, Arafat was a weird person and in our biography, Arafat: A Political Biography, Judith Colp Rubin and myself explain his psychology and personality.   One of my favorite Palestinian jokes about Arafat recounts that he is patting the head of a little girl and asks her, “Whose daughter are you?”

She answers, “Yours.” Arafat was considered by his countrymen to be so cold that he didn’t recognize his own begotten daughter. The story is almost plausible.

But I repeat: there is no reason to think Arafat was a homosexual or died of AIDs. He was overweight, ate an unhealthy diet, worked long hours, didn’t take care of himself (he believed eating honey would keep him healthy), and had very bad doctors despite their local reputations.

So we know who killed Arafat: his doctors, entourage, movement, and of course his own body. Yet when I go to Yahoo what do I see but Arafat’s “mysterious” death as the lead story in the entire world, as if any accusation made against Israel must be true.

Note: Here’s a history of the Israel-killed-Arafat tale in Palestinian Media Watch.

Barry Rubin

About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.

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  1. Ruth Cohen says:

    you must be the only one who does not know he is a homo and lovd little boys. come on barry that is not hard to find out. anyway enjoyed the article and even his own doctors came out and said he has aids.

  2. Jan Bauman says:

    Israel has been known to kill or imprison its opponents. Remember the attempted poisoning of Khalad Mashal in Jordon? Only pressure by King Hussien made Israel give Jordan the antidote. In 1982 Israel attempted to kill Arafat in Lebanon but they could not find him even while they managed to kill close to 20,000 other Palestinians and Lebanese.

    Long time Israeli peace activiest Uri Avnery was with Arafat several times when he was in Ramallah with Arafat during the Israeili seige of Araftat's headquarters. In his commentary of today Avnery writes of how easy it would be for someone to have poisoned Arafat and he writes of who had the greatest movtie. The coutnry with the greatest motive and with the ability to procure polonium was Israel.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Prof. Rubin, for putting the polonium story into perspective. It's so ludicrous. We're supposed to believe that Arafat's widow kept his personal effects, saturated with this highly concentrated poison, in her house for eight years without getting sick herself. And it's only supposition that because polonium was found on his kerchief and other clothes, it was in his body. The poison could so easily have been added to these items on the way to the lab.

  4. Rc Fowler says:

    Homosexuality is not love–but rather the opposite!

    Homosexuals are profoundly mentally ill and sociopathic–as for Arafat he was on the extreme end of sociopathic!

  5. Davide Shalome says:

    Obviously you never read the report by his Romanian trainers and handlers: Arafat’s sexual proclivities have been an open secret for years. The former head of Rumanian intelligence, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa , disclosed in his book “Red Horizons,” that one of his officers reported, “the ‘Fedayee’ [Arafat’s code name] is in his bedroom making love to his bodyguard. The one I knew was his latest lover. He’s playing tiger again. The officer monitoring his microphones connected me live with the bedroom, and the squawling almost broke my eardrums. Arafat was roaring like a tiger, and his lover yelping like a hyena.”.

  6. Davide Shalome says:


    According to the Al Jazeera report, polonium has a half-life of 138 days, “meaning that half of the substance decays roughly every four-and-a-half months.”.

    And yet, eight years after Arafat’s death, the Swiss scientists reported finding polonium levels of 54 millibecquerels (mBq) and 180 millibecquerels on his belonging, considered to be high levels.

    “If it had been used for poisoning, minimal levels should be seen now. Yet much higher levels were found. Someone planted the polonium much later,” Karmon said.

    “Because of the half-life of the substance, the conclusion is that the polonium is much more fresh,” he added.

  7. Liad Bar-el says:

    Jan Bauman: “In 1982 Israel attempted to kill Arafat in Lebanon but they could not find him even while they managed to kill close to 20,000 other Palestinians and Lebanese.”

    The PLO was killing Israeli civilians from its bases in southern Lebanon, so Israel invaded southern Lebanon in 1978.

    The United States reaction?
    “In June 1978, Prime Minister [Menachem] Begin, under intense American pressure, withdrew Israel's Litani River Operation forces from southern Lebanon… The withdrawal of Israeli troops without having removed the PLO from its bases in southern Lebanon became a major embarrassment to the Begin government…”(“Israel 1967-1991; Lebanon 1982”; Palestine Facts. http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_1967to1991_lebanon_198x_backgd.php)
    Keep in mind that the US invaded Panama on the official grounds that one American soldier had been killed. But when scores of Israeli civilians were being murdered by the PLO terrorists, the US would not allow Israel to protect itself.

    Lastly, anyone supporting a leftist and anti- Zionist loon in Israel’s history, Uri Avnery, whose state of mind on a bad day is not even defined in the annals of psychiatric history, would of course over look facts of truth as mentioned above; however, we in Israel are use to this from our Muslim neighbors and from those who support them via internet.

  8. Yehuda Cohen says:

    Abraham had Ishmael. Isaac had Esau. The Irgun had URI AVNERY who said: “We shall not become a normal people until we have Jewish Neo-Nazis and Jewish concentration camps.”

  9. Yehuda Cohen says:

    Barry: “I sat across from him (Arafat) in his Gaza office.” You still sit in that Gaza office and thus are afraid of telling the truth about Arafat being gay? If you are not there, then, Arafat's men know how to "contact" you if you say anything against their Islamic world take-over. You know that “movement” that executes all gays.

  10. Yori Yanover says:

    I wish they had been better at it. The man used up his entire nine lives, coming out in one piece while around him thousands were torn up. What a horrible person he was.

  11. Liad Bar-el says:

    Isn’t that the truth Yori? And that’s putting it very mildly.

    Remember when Hajj Amin al Husseini met with Adolf Hitler and became a leader of the Nazi Holocaust? Yasser Arafat was not shy about declaring his admiration for this leader of the Holocaust: in August of 2002 he referred to the Jerusalem Mufti as “our hero, Hajj Amin al Husseini,” and boasted that he had been Husseini’s soldier in the War of 1948 against the Israeli Jews. (Al-Quds (Palestinian daily newspaper) Aug, 2, 2002) Hajj Amin al Husseini who was a top leader of the German Nazi extermination of the European Jews was also the father of the Palestinian movement, creator of PLO/Fatah, and mentor and leader to Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas; so, also setting up Barry Rubin’s office next to Mahmoud Abbas today won’t do much as it was with Arafat for they both have the same agenda, to destroy Israel.

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