Yasser Arafat died in November, 2004, and memories of the veteran Palestinian leader seemed to have irreversibly receded from public discourse since the time. Nevertheless, it became known recently that the death case had been reopened in France and that three French judges plan to visit Palestine, the point of the mission being to exhume Arafat's body for autopsy following a legal complaint lodged by his widow Suha.
Arafat's widow says she has serious reasons to believe that her husband was poisoned with polonium, and the circumstances surrounding his death were indeed suspicious. He collapsed at his home in Ramallah , was diagnozed with massive brain hemorrhage and airlifted to the Percy military hospital in France where he slipped into coma. As announced later, his death was caused by internal bleeding due to an unidentified infection, so that clarity regarding the medical problem which caused his health to deteriorate is still missing. Suha stressed in an interview to Le Figaro that her husband's blood and urina samples were destroyed four years after he died, while the usual practice is to preserve them for a decade to enable the law-enforcers' access as necessary.
A sensation erupted last July when Al Jazeera featured a documentary based on the channel's own investigation and offering a conclusion that Arafat could have been killed. Al Jazeera cited a study conducted by the Institute of Radiation Physics of the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) whose experts did in-depth research on Arafat's personal effects which he used on the last days of his life – clothes, toothbrush, and cap – and found strong traces of polonium-210 on the objects and in samples of Arafat's sweat, blood, and urine. Contact with the isotope could be the mechanism to trigger the hitherto unexplained health problems which ultimately led to the death of Arafat. It adds to the intrigue that doctors from Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan examined Arafat a couple of weeks before his being taken to France and discerned nothing more threatening about his condition than an ordinary flu.
Arafat's widow mentioned in the interview to Le Figaro that nobody had access to the box containing Arafat's personal effects since his death till the stuff was supplied to the Swiss lab. In fact, as of today the French media tend to synchronously describe the death of Arafat as murder. A popular outlet called Slate released a fragment of Arafat's medical dossier from the Percy hospital dated November 14, 2004. According to the document, Arafat started to suffer stomach aches, diarrhea, and blood coagulation problems four hours after dinner on October 12, 2004, and from the moment on the French doctors were clueless as to the possible diagnosis for the patient. The hypothesis suggested by Slate is that Arafat could be poisoned with toxic mushrooms such as fly agaric or cortinar. The symptoms listed fit with the picture of poisoning with either of the two, says Paris-based doctor Marcel-Francis Kahn.
The report aired by Al Jazeera re-energized the suspicions across the Arab world where the majority was convinced from the outset that Arafat had been killed. Also in July, the Arab League's Assistant-Secretary Ahmed Sabih said the group would press for a probe into the death by an international panel. Palestinian National Authority president Mahmoud Abbas officially asked French president François Hollande to order an investigation into the death of Arafat and gave consent to the exhumation. The next step would be to exact a similar consent from Israel which, in a special statement, rejected charges of complicity in the death of Arafat.
The message Qatar's Al Jazeera meant to deliver to the Arab world was that Israel to which Abbas had implicitly dispensed favors for years killed Arafat. The question to be asked in this connection is: why is the story surfacing now, after eight years of relative obscurity? Tests formerly performed on Arafat's blood in many countries revealed no presence of any known poisons. Tel Aviv holds that Arafat's personal effects were peppered with Polonium years after the man's death to put the investigation on wrong tracks as, in any case, the ado around Arafat's demise hurts the standing of Israel.
It matters in the context that the theme of the tentative murder of Arafat was reanimated – with the Polonium-related version popping up – by Qatar's media giant. Al Jazeera is, above all, an instrument of influencing the Middle Eastern politics in the hands of the Al Thani dynasty which runs Qatar. It appears that at present the clan is orchestrating a campaign aimed at discrediting the Palestinian leadership. Al Jazeera's footage portrays on a regular basis Palestinian head M. Abbas standing side by side with ousted Tunisian leader Ben Ali, former Egyptian president H. Mubarak, former Yemeni president A. Saleh, and Libya's slain M. Gaddafi or shaking hands with the Israelis. Qatar being a key driver behind the Arab Spring, it is a safe bet that now the small but hyperambitious country is scheming to displace the Palestinian leadership. One might ask: why would it?
As of late, Qatar was seen to actively back Hamas, a group Israel condemns as terrorist and would never talk to over the negotiating table. In September, 2011, Qatar's emir made an official statement in support of the Hamas government for the Gaza Strip. It was in the news last January that the headquarters of Hamas, a Sunni group being a de facto component of the extensive Muslim Brotherhood network, moved from Damascus to Doha. Qatar and Hamas work together to reconstruct the Gaza Strip. Egypt's Bikya Masr wrote that Qatar had $250m earmarked to rebuild 55,000 homes damaged in the course of the Cast Lead offensive launched by Israel in January, 2009, and pledged the finances to have 5,000 new residences cobbled up.
If Abbas leaves his post, which may be what Qatar is pushing for, Hamas is sure to fill in the niche, and, by the way, Doha and Hamas are allies in the ongoing fight against the government of B. Assad in Syria. Under the scenario, Qatar will likely bid for mediator's role in the talks (as it did in February, 2008 when Doha volunteered to act as a go-between in the Israel-Hamas dispute), thus attempting to reinforce its regional positions. Moreover, at the moment the new Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, furnished by the Muslim Brotherhood and propped up by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, is trying to engage with Hamas. Overall, a powerful anti-Israeli coalition is taking shape in the Middle East, a war between Arabs and Israel being the potential outcome.
It should be taken into account that Qatar is well-connected in the US, Great Britain, and France. HAMAS and Qatar fleetingly fell out of phase in October, 2011 when HAMAS representatives in Doha became aware that their partners in Qatar leaked sensitive information to the US and French intelligence communities. To complicate things further, it appears that the US managed to wrestle control over Al Jazera from its former bosses.
Washington chronically needs conflicts in various parts of the world to nourish its military-industrial complex and to otherwise keep the US economy healthy. It is small wonder in this light that, for a fraction of the US establishment, Israel's eventual mission is to die for the US. So far, Washington failed to drum up, in the ranks of its Arab allies, coherent support for a war against Iran. Qatar, for example, reached a reasonable deal with Iran on carving up the giant South Pars gas field and refrains from criticizing Tehran, least igniting a confrontation with it. In contrast, Qatar is clearly inclined to exert pressure on Syria, Palestine, or Lebanon.
With their efforts to incite hostilities between the Shia and Sunni Muslims unsuccessful, the hawks in Washington can be expected to switch to provoking tensions between radical Sunni groups and Israel, and the Palestinian problem, which the rise of HAMAS to power will leave in a stalemate, can detonate a major conflict. Access to potable water is the region's contentious issue contributing to the upcoming hostilities. Obviously, Israel will never want to let the Palestinians have Jordan River's West Bank which holds vital water resources.
A reorientation from Israel to Palestine recently became visible in the policies pursued by the Obama Administration. On May 19, 2011, the US President spoke in public of reversing the situation created by the Six-Day War and squeezing Israel back into the space bound by its 1967 borders. Chances are the US government hopes that befriending the Palestinians would open to US companies the desired access to the Leviathan oil and gas deposits discovered in 2010 in the East Mediterranean. Israel is entitled to a sector of the energy fields and intends to cultivate them independently, whereas the Palestinians who expect to get their share of the riches would probably welcome Western partners if they guarantee protection and assist in making the Palestinian statehood a reality.
The US media seem unperturbed by the developments around Arafat's death, which are underway in France, and generally agree that a lot has to be clarified in the case. So far, no outright opposition to the hypothesis that Arafat was poisoned is in sight in the US and British media.
The part taken in the story by France, the country which all of a sudden revived the case promising considerable intentional repercussions, certainly deserves close attention. No doubt, the step took the administration's blessing given the overly bureaucratic French settings. One, therefore, gets an impression that the French foreign-policy priorities concerning the Middle East are drifting. They used to be focused on Israel under N. Sarkozy, but these days Arabs rather than Israel are regarded as perspective allies by Paris. It may be that the global elites think that the time has come to dump the costly Project Israel and turn to the dynamic and economically self-sufficient Project Qatar centered around a dwarf country whose leaders are eager to be the Anglo-Saxons' allies in the Middle East. There can be a major war in the Middle East at the bottom line, the plot involving Israel and Arafat being the spark ahead of the blast…