Yasser Arafat - Cacophony and Controversy In Life and In Death
by DARLENE CASELLA
September 6, 2012
The 83rd birthday of Yasser Arafat would have been last week, except he died in Paris at the age of 75. French doctors said it was a massive stroke. Plausible causes of death include AIDS, polonium poisoning, cirrhosis, and a platelet disorder. His wife refused an autopsy, and speculation grew like Jack and the Bean Stalk.
French prosecutors have opened a murder inquiry into the death, because lethal polonium 210 was recently found on Arafat's clothes, bolstering the poison theory. The Swiss Institut de Radiophysique writes that exhuming the remains could bring clarity. Palestinian approval came slowly. Swiss experts will soon travel to Arafat's marble and stone Mausoleum in the West Bank. Polonium decays quickly, it could be too late.
Yasser Arafat was born in 1929 Cairo. As a poor child he lived in Jerusalem with an Uncles' family. Graduating from Egypt's King Faud University in 1950, he adopted the name Yasser, and began "fedayeen" against Israel. When the United Nations expelled guerrilla forces from the Sinai, Yasser left for Kuwait and became involved with Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
FATAH, a reverse acronym for Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Filastini, was established by Arafat. In 1962 he migrated to Syria where guerillas made armed incursions into Israel. Arafat spent his life fighting against Israel in the name of Palestinian self determination, and opposed Israel's existence.
After the Arab defeat in the 1967 Six Day War, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser declared Arafat "leader of the Palestinians"; Fatah was given 33 seats on the PLO Executive Committee. A borderless war lord, Arafat courted Gulf Kingdoms and oil business receiving hefty contributions.
In Paris, Arafat met a young Catholic Palestinian woman from the West Bank, Suha Tawil. She moved to Tunisia as his interpreter. Suha converted to Islam and they were secretly married. In 1990 the bride was 27, the groom 61. She lived away from her husband in Paris much of the time. The Palestinian Authority did not like nor approve of his wife. She
Engaging in negotiations to end the Israel - PLO conflict, it was reported that Arafat recognized Israel. He did not. He never followed through to change the charter. The Madrid Conference, the Oslo Accords, and the Camp David Summit, resulted in Palestinian self rule in portions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and removal of Israeli's in those areas.
Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres each received the 1994 Noble Peace Prize. Islamists denounced Arafat. Gulf States withdrew financial support. Arafat moved to Gaza City as President of the provisional Palestinian National Authority.
HAMAS is an internationally recognized terrorist group, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which began in 1987; with a goal to replace Israel with an Islamic Palestinian state. Islamists had backed Arafat, but now rejected his policies with Israel. They bombed civilian targets, malls, and movie theatres to scare the public and to challenge Arafat. At the urging of President George W. Bush, Arafat turned control over to Hamas leader Mahmoud Abbas. History will not be kind to the Bush - Rice role in Gaza. Voting in Gaza led to a split in the Palestinian Parliament. Hamas controls Gaza. Fatah controls the West Bank.
It is alleged that Arafat had a secret portfolio of $1.3 billion. The IMF stated that Arafat diverted $900 million to a special bank account and most of the funds were used to invest in Palestinian assets internally and abroad. Arafat supplied millions to support terrorists. Dennis Ross, Middle East advisor under Presidents Bush and Clinton, states that Arafat financed a vast patronage system. After Arafat's death, a reported lifetime allowance of $22 million a year from the Palestinian Authority to Mrs. Arafat was approved.
If poisoned, who killed Arafat?
Arab and Islamic fingers 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. For the last two years of Arafat's life, Israel confined him to his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah. We did not hurt him when he was in his prime...so had no interest in this kind of activity when he was politically sidelined. "
When Prime Minister Sharon was told that Arafat was ill and needed to leave for medical treatment in Europe, he immediately approved the request. Arafat was flown to Paris. Weeks later in a military hospital outside of Paris he fell into a coma and died on November 11, 2004.
A flag draped coffin was flown to Cairo for Egyptian Military Services before being flown to Gaza for burial. Thousands of chaotic mourners watched as his body was placed in the ground.
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 him to visit Arafat in the Paris hospital. He was denied access to Arafat's body after his death.
Cause of Arafat's death remains a mystery.
Darlene Casella was, before her retirement, an English teacher, a stockbroker, and president/owner of a small corporation. She lives with her husband in La Quinta, California, and can be reached at email@example.com.