By Khalid Amayreh in Occupied East Jerusalem
Who killed Yasser Arafat? This is the question that has been boggling many people’s minds ever since the late Palestinian leader’s mysterious death in November, 2004.
Then, many people, politicians and ordinary citizens alike, even Arafat’s own physician, Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi, seemed convinced that Arafat didn’t die a natural death and that he was actually killed as a result of a certain poisonous substance injected into his body probably by agents of the Israeli Mossad.
This writer spoke to Sakhr Habash, a close former aide to Yasser Arafat shortly after Arafat’s death. Habash, now ill as a result of a stroke, said that Arafat was killed by “ Israel ’s agents.”
I remember him telling me “they killed him, they killed him.” And when I asked him who he was alluding to, Habash said “he was referring to Arafat’s opponents within the Fatah organization.”
Habash gave no names, but anyone could conjure up some of the people he had in mind.
The PLO and the Palestinian Authority formed a commission of inquiry to look into the matter of Arafat’s death. However, the commission went into dormancy as soon as it was formed as all cues led to a dead-end or to inaccessible figures or sovereign foreign governments, e.g. France, that wouldn’t cooperate.
Nearly two weeks ago, Bassam Abu Sharif, another former aide to Yasser Arafat, held a surprise news conference in Ramallah, marking Arafat’s 78th birthday, in which he pointed out that Arafat did die of poison and that he possessed credible evidence proving his hypothesis.
Abu Sharif appealed to former French president Jacques Chirac to disclose the cause of Arafat’s death, or more specifically, to reveal the type of poison that killed the late Palestinian leader.
Meanwhile, it was reported recently that the Tunisian government decided to withdraw the Tunisian citizenship from Arafat’s widow Suha Tawil who reportedly moved to Malta where she is now living.
Neither the Tunisian government nor Arafat’s widow elaborated on the matter as some pan-Arab newspapers speculated that the Tunisian measure was prompted by a business dispute between the former Mrs. Arafat and her Tunisian partner.
However, there have been allegations and rumors that Suha Tawil possessed “hard information” about Yasser Arafat’s death and that she received a legal undertaking from the French authorities to keep “Arafat’s medical records confidential.”
Moreover, there have been consistent reports circulating in the occupied Palestinian territories alleging that Suha Tawil had reached a “deal” with the top Fatah leadership in the West Bank whereby she received millions of dollars in return for “keeping her mouth shut.”
And it seems that both sides to the deal have kept their part of the bargain. However, it is obvious that the alleged deal between Palestine’s First Lady, as some pliant Palestinian newspapers used to refer to Suha al Tawil, and the top Fatah leadership, has failed to bury the Arafat’s death affair in the grave of history once and for all.
This week, Ashraf al Kurdi revealed in an interview with the pan-Arab Al Jazeera TV that HIV antibodies were found in Arafat’s blood. When Kurdi uttered these words, the station immediately halted the interview.
Al Jazeera officials didn’t say why they stopped the interview with Dr. al Kurdi, a noted cardiologist and former Jordanian Minister of Health, but journalists working for the satellite station in the Occupied Palestinian territories intimated that the famous station probably was worried that Kurdi’s revelations might put it in a difficult situation vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority, especially the Fatah group, who might harm al-Jazeera’s correspondents and workers in Palestine.
Al-Kurdi, undeterred by Al-Jazeera’s nervous reflexes, clarified the matter further during an interview with the Jordanian Ammon website this week. He said he believed that Arafat was deliberately infected with the AIDS virus in order to obscure the real cause of his death and also in order to tarnish his name, e.g. by creating the impression that Arafat may have been gay, a disgraceful trait in traditional Arab society.
Al-Kurdi, who was Arafat’s personal physician for 18 years, didn’t say how he was able to know that HIV viruses were found in Arafat’s blood and why he thought that the actual cause of his death was poison, not AIDS.
Al Kurdi left many questions unanswered when he pointed out that he was prevented from seeing the late Palestinian leader when his life was really deteriorating.
“They used to call me whenever he had a simple common cold, but when his life started to deteriorate , his wife, Suha, wouldn’t allow me to travel with him to the hospital in Paris; no doctor at the French military hospital contacted me for details about his health, and after he died, the current Palestinian Chairman didn’t allow Arafat’s grave to be reopened in order to determine the cause of his death.”
Interestingly, al Kurdi’s revelation that Arafat’s blood contained the HIV virus was previously unknown and certainly unconfirmed. This writer interviewed al-Kurdi on Arafat’s death nearly two years ago, and he made no reference to the infectious disease.
Hence, one is prompted to ask what is the source of al-Kurdi’s revelations? And who has a vested interest in making these revelations at this time? And is there a certain “insider” trying to blackmail or expose the culprits for money or political concessions or both?
Moreover, why did Suha Arafat prevent Ashraf al-Kurdi from seeing her husband after he was transferred to the military hospital in Paris? Also, does her expulsion from Tunis have anything to do with some undeclared revelations about her possible complicity or culpability in Arafat’s death.?
These and other questions are awaiting satisfactory answers.