Arafat Poisoning Theory Called Into Question

Allegations that Yasser Arafat’s 2004 death may have been caused by exposure to Polonium, which I wrote about earlier this week, are being called into question by Israeli scientists:

The high levels of the radioactive poison polonium reportedly found on the belongings of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat indicate that the toxin was planted on them long after his death, a senior counterterrorism analyst told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

Dr. Ely Karmon, of the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya’s Institute for Counterterrorism, is a specialist in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism.

Responding to an Al Jazeera report published Wednesday – which said that researchers at the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, discovered abnormally high levels of polonium on Arafat’s belongings – Karmon said that the half-life of the substance would make it impossible for polonium to have been discovered at such high levels if it had been used to kill Arafat eight years ago.

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.

Karmon added that the Al Jazeera report raised additional unanswered questions. Referring to the fact that Arafat’s widow, Suha, provided the researchers with Arafat’s belongings, Karmon asked: “If Suha Arafat safeguarded these contaminated materials, why, after seven years, was she not poisoned too? She touched these things and Arafat in hospital.”

The issues regarding the decay rate of Polonium were raised in several of the comments to my original post on this story, and the point that’s made here questioning how the levels in the clothes tested could have possibly been so high four years after the fact certainly does raise questions about this entire story. There seem to be only two possibilities. Either there is a flaw in the testing procedures, or the clothing was exposed to Polonium far more recently than anything contemporaneous with Arafat’s death and, since these items were supposedly in the possession of Arafat’s wife before being turned over one wonders why she isn’t sick.

The Palestinian Authority is apparently going forward with the exhumation of Arafat’s body, so it will be interesting to see what those results show. Of course, I would expect that the testing would be done by a body independent of the Palestinian Authority. Otherwise, this whole saga will start to look like a massive attempt to fool the world.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The Palestinian Authority is apparently going forward with the exhumation of Arafat’s body, so it will be interesting to see what those results show. Of course, I would expect that the testing would be done by a body independent of the Palestinian Authority. Otherwise, this whole saga will start to look like a massive attempt to fool the world.

    Somehow or other Doug, I don’t think they give a rat’s ass how it looks to the rest of the world, only how it plays with Palestinians.