I haven’t known what to think about the Al Jazeera report on what killed Yasser Arafat. I never put it past the Israelis to try to do it, though didn’t think it made sense that they would do so at that particular time. By 2004 Arafat, holed up in the Muqata’a and bereft of serious international support, was no longer a problem for the Israelis. They had no compelling reason to turn him into a martyr and gratuitously create additional problems for themselves—diplomatic and otherwise—while they were at it. So I was mainly dismissive of the various conspiracy theories. But who knows? After reading two pieces on the subject, though—one on the NPR website, the other by Hussein Ibish in FP—, I now think that there’s nothing to the Al Jazeera report. I don’t buy the polonium-210 theory.
UPDATE: Uri Avnery has a column today on the new theory on Arafat’s death, where he reiterates his long held conviction that the Israelis had him poisoned. I have great admiration for Avnery but don’t follow him on this one. Nor on his general admiration for Arafat (who was really not an admirable figure and on any level). Here’s hoping Arafat’s bones are exhumed for an autopsy—that wife Suha refused back in 2004—, to put the matter to rest once and for all. (July 7)
2nd UPDATE: French experts have ruled out polonium poisoning as a cause of Arafat’s death. The case is closed. (March 16, 2015)