Unearth the truth

The exhuming of the body of Yasser Arafat to investigate the cause of his death could throw up some ugly facts, which in turn is expected to stir up the near-dead Middle-East peace process. Arafat died in 2004 in a French military hospital.

While it was a stroke that ended his life, the underlying cause of a bleeding disorder he suffered in his final weeks was never clear and not made public.

Investigators subsequently discovered traces of a deadly radioactive isotope, polonium-210, on what are believed to be the Palestinian leader’s clothes, triggering suspicions that he might have been poisoned. On the request of Arafat’s wife Sana and the Palestinian Authority (PA), French and Swiss officials will carry parallel probes to establish whether the former PA president was murdered. Should a conspiracy be established, it can be expected to plunge the Palestinian areas into turmoil.

The needle of suspicion points in the direction of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, which is known to have assassinated many Palestinians. However, Arafat, who enjoyed iconic status as the leader of the Palestinian national liberation movement, had enemies among the Palestinians.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad openly challenged his leadership as they were opposed to his engaging in talks with Israel. If the hand of Hamas or Islamic Jihad is established it has the potential to tear apart the Palestinians’ already fractured society.

The exhumation and probe comes at a critical point. The Palestinians are preparing to move the United Nations General Assembly for a vote on granting Palestine the status of an ‘observer state’ in the UN. The Palestinians are likely to win the vote but also they could be the target of the wrath of the United States, which is expected to halt funds to the PA. Should the probe point to a murder conspiracy and reveal the hand of Israel, it will only steel their resolve further to act unilaterally.  The Palestinians will then show no interest in exhuming the dead peace process.

The probe into Arafat’s death should be fair. Investigators must not allow their personal biases to colour the investigation. The truth about Arafat’s death must be established as the Palestinians have a right to know whether their leader was murdered. If he was indeed murdered, the probe should be followed by another to establish who was behind the conspiracy.

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