Arafat’s Kaffiyeh – Catch 210 – The case of the 8-year-old Duffle Bag

by DARLENE CASELLA December 5, 2012

Beloved by Palestinians, Yasser Arafat spent his life working towards the destruction of Israel. It is alleged that he died with a portfolio of $1.3 billion used to support a patronage system against Israel.  Upon his death this went to the Palestinian Authority. Arafat's wife is given a yearly allowance of $22 million. Israel confined Arafat to his headquarters in Ramallah from 2002 until his death. Arafat's wife chose to live in Paris.  

When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was told that Arafat was ill, he immediately approved the request for him to leave for medical treatment in Europe.  Arafat was flown to Paris. After two weeks at the Percy Military Hospital he fell into a coma and died on November 11, 2004. He was 75. French doctors reported  that it was a massive stroke. Suha, his wife, refused to allow an autopsy.    

Before his death Islamists had denounced Arafat for his role in the Madrid Conference, the Oslo Accords, and the Camp David Summits.  Gulf States withdrew financial support from Arafat and his PLO.  However in 1994 he received the Noble Peace Prize for his efforts. 

In March 2012, a duffle bag with the clothes Arafat had worn to the hospital; his toothbrush; some hair, and his kaffiyeh headdress were given to Mrs. Arafat.  She gave the duffle to Al Jazeera Investigative Report for a documentary film. The personal effects were sent to the Institute of Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland where scientists were shocked to discover an unexpected elevated amount of radioactive polonium 210 was on the belongings. 

Armed with the Swiss findings Mrs. Arafat filed a legal complaint. The French Court opened a murder investigation.  To know if Arafat had been murdered, it was necessary to have his tissue sample showing the presence of polonium. Permission for exhumation was required by the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas stalled.  Suha gained international attention for her requests when she appeared on French television and on Arabian television asking for the PA to grant permission for the exhumation. After months of waiting, Abbas granted permission.  

Last week Swiss experts exhumed Arafat's body from the marble and stone mausoleum in the West Bank.   The Swiss Institut de Radiophysique writes that exhuming may or may not bring clarity.  Polonium 210 decays with time, and there may not be traces remaining in the tissue, even if it was there eight years ago. Sixty samples were taken. 

The Palestinian investigation is headed by Tawfiq Tirawi and joined by French, Russian and Swiss experts.  They are scientists, a toxicologists, pathologists, judicial medicine experts; and radiation specialist experts.

Arab and Islamic fingers claim murder and point to Israel. Dov Weisglass, chief of staff to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said "Israel had no reason to physically harm the Palestinian leader. We did not hurt him when he was in his had no interest in this kind of activity when he was politically sidelined. "

Dr. Ashraf al Kurdi a leading Jordanian doctor and Arafat's personal physician for 18 years said "I would usually be summoned to attend to Arafat immediately, even when all he had was a simple cold. But when his medical situation was really deteriorating; they chose not to call me at all." Arafat's wife refused to allow Dr. Kurdi to visit Arafat in the Paris hospital. He was denied access to Arafat's body after his death. 


  • The personal effects of Arafat were held for 8 years before being given to Arafat's wife. She then handed them to Al Jazeera television. Could the effects have been tainted after Arafat's death? Why did Al Jazeera send them to Switzerland?
  • Polonium decomposes with time. Mahmoud Abbas delayed the request to exhume for months. Did Abbas wait until it was probable that traces of Polonium could not be proved nor disproved?
  • French authorities requested an interview with Mahmoud Abbas. Why did he refuse?
  • If polonium is found in the exhumed samples; who killed him and why?
  • It will be months before the scientific tests are concluded. While it is not yet known if Arafat was murdered, Israel is being accused of the murder.
  • Exhumation took place days before the United Nations General Assembly gave the Palestinian Authority non member state status and access to the International Criminal Court. Did Abbas delay so that the "murder trial of Arafat against Israel" could take place on the International Criminal Court stage in Hague?

In 1980 America the top watched show was "Dallas, Who shot JR Ewing." In 2013 Middle East Al Jazeera it may be "Who killed Arafat." It will be reality TV through the Palestinian prism.    

Darlene Casella was, before her retirement, an English teacher, a stockbroker, and president/owner of a small corporation. She lives in La Quinta, California, and can be reached at

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