by Uri Avnery, Peace Activist, Journalist, Writer, Founding Member of Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), Former Three-Term Member of the Israeli Knesset and the original advocate of the “Two-State Solution” Israel-Palestine Idea
Publisher‘s Note: We updated and rearranged this article putting the most recent, which is present day, and added many of Uri’s writings from the past about the assassination of Yasser Arafat to add cohesion and context. It would be interesting whether the French are actually going to uphold unbiased justice as Mr. Francois Hollande now has chosen to serve Zionist and Neoconservative interests, and betray the very platform he told the French during his presidential campaign.
August 30, 2012 (TSR) – FOR ME, there was no surprise. From the very first day, I was convinced that Yasser Arafat had been poisoned by Ariel Sharon. I even wrote about it several times.
It was a simple logical conclusion.
First, a thorough medical examination in the French military hospital where he died did not find any cause for his sudden collapse and death. No traces of any life-threatening disease were found.
The rumors distributed by the Israeli propaganda machine that Arafat had AIDS were blatant lies. They were a continuation of the rumors spread by the same machine that he was gay – all part of the relentless demonization of the Palestinian leader, which went on daily for decades.
When there is no obvious cause of death, there must be a less obvious one.
Second, we know by now that several secret services possess poisons that leave no routinely detectable trace. These include the CIA, the Russian FSB (successor of the KGB), and the Mossad.
Third, opportunities were plentiful. Arafat’s security arrangements were decidedly lax. He would embrace perfect strangers who presented themselves as sympathizers of the Palestinian cause and often seated them next to himself at meals.
Fourth, there were plenty of people who aimed at killing him and had the means to do so. The most obvious one was our prime minister, Ariel Sharon. He had even talked about Arafat having “no insurance policy” in 2004.
WHAT WAS previously a logical probability has now become a certainty.
An examination of his belongings commissioned by Aljazeera TV and conducted by a highly respected Swiss scientific institute has confirmed that Arafat was poisoned with Polonium, a deadly radioactive substance that avoids detection unless one specifically looks for it.
Two years after Arafat’s death, the Russian dissident and former KGB/FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London by Russian agents using this poison. The cause was discovered by his doctors by accident. It took him three weeks to die.
Closer to home, in Amman, Hamas leader Khaled Mash’al was almost killed in 1997 by the Mossad, on orders of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The means was a poison that kills within days after coming into contact with the skin. The assassination was bungled and the victim’s life was saved when the Mossad was compelled, after an ultimatum from King Hussein, to provide an antidote in time.
If Arafat’s widow, Suha, succeeds in getting his body exhumed from the mausoleum in the Mukata’a in Ramallah, where it has become a national symbol, the poison will undoubtably be found in his body.
ARAFAT’S LACK of proper security arrangements always astonished me. Israeli Prime Ministers are tenfold better protected.
I remonstrated with him several times. He shrugged it off. In this respect, he was a fatalist. After his life was miraculously preserved when his airplane made a crash landing in the Libyan Desert and the people around him were killed, he was convinced that Allah was protecting him.
(Though the head of a secular movement with a clear secular program, he himself was an observant Sunni Muslim, praying at the proper times and abstaining from alcohol. He did not impose his piety on his assistants.)
Once he was interviewed in my presence in Ramallah. The journalists asked him if he expected to see the creation of the Palestinian state in his lifetime. His answer: “Both I and Uri Avnery will see it in our life.” He was quite sure of this.
ARIEL SHARON’S determination to kill Arafat was well known. Already during the siege of Beirut in Lebanon War I, it was no secret that agents were combing West Beirut for his whereabouts. To Sharon’s great frustration, they did not find him.
Even after Oslo, when Arafat came back to Palestine, Sharon did not let up. When he became Prime Minister, my fear for Arafat’s life became acute. When our army attacked Ramallah during “Operation Defensive Shield” they broke into Arafat’s compound (Mukata’a is Arabic for compound) and came within 10 meters of his rooms. I saw them with my own eyes.
Twice during the siege of many months my friends and I went to stay at the Mukata’a for several days to serve as a human shield. When Sharon was asked why he did not kill Arafat, he answered that the presence of Israelis there made it impossible.
However, I believe that this was only a pretext. It was the US that forbade it. The Americans feared, quite rightly, that an open assassination would cause the whole Arab and Muslim world to explode in anti-American fury. I cannot prove it, but I am sure that Sharon was told by Washington: “On no condition are you allowed to kill him in a way that can be traced to you. If you can do it without leaving a trace, go ahead.”
(Just as the US Secretary of State told Sharon in 1982 that on no condition was he allowed to attack Lebanon, unless there was a clear and internationally recognized provocation. Which was promptly provided.)
In an eerie coincidence, Sharon himself was felled by a stroke soon after Arafat’s death, and has lived in a coma ever since.)
THE DAY Aljazeera’s conclusions were published this week happened to be the 30th anniversary of my first meeting with Arafat, which for him was the first meeting with an Israeli.
It was at the height of the battle of Beirut. To get to him, I had to cross the lines of four belligerents – the Israeli army, the Christian Lebanese Phalange militia, the Lebanese army and the PLO forces.
I spoke with Arafat for two hours. There, in the middle of a war, when he could expect to find his death at any moment, we talked about Israeli-Palestinian peace, and even a federation of Israel and Palestine, perhaps to be joined by Jordan.
The meeting, which was announced by Arafat’s office, caused a worldwide sensation. My account of the conversation was published in several leading newspapers.
On my way home, I heard on the radio that four cabinet ministers were demanding that I be put on trial for treason. The government of Menachem Begin instructed the Attorney General to open a criminal investigation. However, after several weeks, the AG determined that I had not broken any law. (The law was duly changed soon afterwards.)
IN THE many meetings I held with Arafat since then, I became totally convinced that he was an effective and trustworthy partner for peace.
I slowly began to understand how this father of the modern Palestinian liberation movement, considered an arch-terrorist by Israel and the US, became the leader of the Palestinian peace effort. Few people in history have been privileged to lead two successive revolutions in their lifetime.
When Arafat started his work, Palestine had disappeared from the map and from world consciousness. By using the “armed struggle” (alias “terrorism”)’ he succeeded in putting Palestine back on the world’s agenda.
His change of orientation occurred right after the 1973 war. That war, it will be remembered, started with stunning Arab successes and ended with a rout of the Egyptian and Syrian armies. Arafat, an engineer by profession, drew the logical conclusion: if the Arabs could not win an armed confrontation even in such ideal circumstances, other means had to be found
His decision to start peace negotiations with Israel went totally against the grain of the Palestinian National Movement, which considered Israel as a foreign invader. It took Arafat a full 15 years to convince his own people to accept his line, using all his wiles, tactical deftness and powers of persuasion. In the 1988 meeting of the Palestinian parliament-in-exile, the National Council, his concept was adopted: a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel in part of the country. This state, with its capital in East Jerusalem and its borders based on the Green Line has been, since then, the fixed and unchangeable goal; the legacy of Arafat to his successors.
Not by accident, my contacts with Arafat, first indirectly through his assistants and then directly, started at the same time: 1974. I helped him to establish contact with the Israeli leadership, and especially with Yitzhak Rabin. This led to the 1993 Oslo agreement – which was killed by the assassination of Rabin.
When asked if he had an Israeli friend, Arafat named me. This was based on his belief that I had risked my life when I went to see him in Beirut. On my part, I was grateful for his trust in me when he met me there, at a time when hundreds of Sharon’s agents were looking for him.
But beyond personal considerations, Arafat was the man who was able to make peace with Israel, willing to do so, and – more important – to get his people, including the Islamists, to accept it. This would have put an end to the settlement enterprise.
That’s why he was poisoned.
*This article here was originally published since September 21, 2002 under the title,
WHILE I am writing this, Yasser Arafat is still alive. But his life is hanging on a thread.
When we visited him the last time in his bombed-out Mukata’ah compound in Ramallah, I warned him that Sharon is determined to kill him.
Everybody acquainted with Sharon knows that he never lets go. When he does not achieve his aim the first time, he tries again, and again, and again, and again. Never, ever, does he give up.
Already in besieged Beirut, at the height of the Lebanon war, Sharon was trying to put his hands on him. Dozens of agents, mostly Phalanges members, were combing the western quarters in order to catch him. He evaded them, as he has evaded dozens of assassination attempts before and after, by Abu-Nidal (who was at least partly a Mossad hireling) and others.
Now Sharon believes that he can achieve his aim. He needs only Bush’s approval. Not necessarily a formal confirmation. A subtle hint will suffice. Half a word. A wink.
It will be easy to implement the decision. An incident can be put in motion: soldiers enter the office in order to capture “wanted” people, somebody opens fire, Arafat will be shot “by accident”. Arafat may draw his pistol, soldiers will “have no alternative” but to return fire. A shell may hit the office “by mistake”, Arafat will be buried under the rubble. After all, in war accidents happen. A lot of accidents.
Sharon never wanted to “deport” Arafat to Gaza or any other place in this world. He wants to deport him to the next world. Now this is possible.
Therefore, it is necessary to speak out bluntly and unequivocally:
MORALLY, THE murder of Arafat, the historical leader and elected president of the Palestinian people, is reprehensible. Like the murder of Rabin.
Legally, the murder of Arafat is a war crime.
Politically, it will be said about the murder of Arafat what a French statesman said about another political murder: “It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake!”
Arafat is the man who decided, 28 years ago, to start on the road to a settlement with Israel, in order to realize this way the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. At the time, that was an incredibly bold decision, and he took it long before Rabin and Peres even dreamed about Oslo. I know, because I was an eye-witness to the beginnings of the process.
Since then, Arafat has not changed by one iota the decision he took then: to seek conciliation with Israel within the framework of peace that will include an independent Palestinian state, return to the pre-1967 border with mutually agreed adjustments, Jerusalem capital of both states, withdrawal of the settlers, suitable security arrangements, a mutually agreed solution of the refugee problem.
On this basis, peace is possible even now. Immediately. But Sharon rejects is with both his fists. He wants a Greater Israel, the extension of the settlements, and, eventually, the elimination of the Palestinian presence west of the Jordan.
The assertion of Ehud Barak that Arafat has rejected his own peace plan is a blatant lie, that has caused a historical disaster. Barak’s “generous offers” were far from the sensible solution.
Now, as before, Arafat is the only person capable of signing a peace agreement and convince his people to accept and implement it. No other Palestinian leader capable of doing so is to be seen on the horizon. Leadership of the Palestinian people will not pass into the hands of the “moderates”, who will look like collaborators and accomplices to the murder, but into the hands of the extremists, fanatics thirsting for revenge.
The murder of Arafat is the murder of all chances for peace.
That is a crime against the Israeli people. It will condemn us to making war for decades, perhaps for generations to come, perhaps forever. The moral, social and economic decline that we are experiencing now everywhere in Israel will drag Israel down to new depths and to the emigration of many.
The dead Arafat will become a legend of heroism to his people and a new Che Guevara to the world. His mistakes will be forgotten. For future generations of Palestinians, he will become a role model. Hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims, from Morocco to Indonesia, will compare their own leaders to the dead Arafat, and the comparison will be fatal.
In the eyes of these hundreds of millions, Israel and Jews will become a synonym of betrayal, killing and lying. The poisonous plant of anti-Semitism will bloom as never before. Already we are tasting a small sample of this
If this disaster happens, all the government will share the blame. Not one minister will be acquitted. Neither Ben-Eliezer, nor Peres, nor any of their colleagues. Nor the army officers who cooperated and even pushed the political leadership. Nor the members of the Knesset, whether belonging to the coalition or the opposition, who kept quite during the recent months. Nor the correspondents and commentators, who turned themselves into government and army spokesmen. Nor the professors and intellectuals, who saw and were silent. All of them will bear the responsibility.
This is the last minute to get up and shout: NO!
*This article here was originally published since September 9, 2003 under the title, Assassinating Arafat: A Disaster Foretold
So now it is official: the government of Israel has decided to assassinate Yasser Arafat.
Not any more to “exile”. Not any more to “expel or kill”. Simply to “remove”.
Of course, the intention is not to remove him to another country. Nobody seriously believes that Yasser Arafat will raise his hands and allow himself to be marched off. He and his men will be killed “during the exchange of fire”. This would not be the first time.
Even if it was possible to expel Arafat to another country, nobody in the Israeli leadership would dream of doing so. How come? Allow him to make the rounds of Putin, Schroeder and Chirac? God forbid. So the plan is to remove him to the next world.
Not immediately. The Americans forbid it. It may make Bush angry. Sharon does not want to annoy Bush.
Some people comfort themselves with the thought that this is just an empty resolution. It is supposed to be implemented at a time and in a way yet to be decided. But this is wishful thinking, a dangerous comfort. The decision legitimizing his assassination is by itself a far-reaching political act. It is intended to get the Israeli and international public used to the idea. What used to sound like a crazy plot by extreme fanatics now has the air of a legitimate political process, with only the time and mode of implementation still open.
Anyone familiar with Ariel Sharon can see how things will develop from now on. He will wait for his opportunity. It may come any minute, or after a week, a month, a year. He is patient. When he decides to do something, he is ready to wait, but he won’t deviate from his goal.
So when will the planned assassination be carried out? When some big suicide attack will take place in Israel, one so big that an extreme reaction will be understood by the Americans, too. Or when something happens somewhere to divert world attention from our country. Or when some dramatic event, something comparable to the destruction of the Twin Towers, makes Bush furious.
What will happen afterwards?
Arab leaders say that there will be “incalculable results”. But, in truth, the results can be calculated fairly well in advance.
The murder of Arafat will bring about an historic change in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian people. Since the 1973 war, both peoples have been accepting the idea of a compromise between the two great national movements. In the Oslo agreement, after a process initiated by Yasser Arafat practically alone, the Palestinians gave up 78% of the country that was called Palestine before 1948. They agreed to set up their state in the remaining 22%. Only Arafat had the moral and political standing necessary to carry the people with him, much as Ben-Gurion was able to convince our people to accept the partition plan.
Even in the sharpest crises since then, both peoples have remained steadfast in their belief that in the end there will be a compromise.
The assassination of Arafat will put an end to this, perhaps forever. We shall return to the stage of “all or nothing”: Greater Israel or Greater Palestine, throwing the Jews into the sea or pushing the Palestinians out into the desert.
The Palestinian Authority will disappear. Israel will take over all the Palestinian territories, with all the economic and human stress involved. The “de luxe occupation”, which allowed Israel a free hand in the territories, with the world paying the bills, will be over.
Violence will reign supreme. It will be the sole language of both peoples. In Jerusalem and Ramallah, Haifa and Hebron, Tulkarm and Tel-Aviv, fear will stalk the streets. Every mother who sends her children to school will be consumed by worry until they come back. Terror on this side and on that side, an ever widening spiral of violence, automatic and incessant escalation.
The earthquake will not be limited to the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. The whole Arab world will erupt. Arafat the shahid, the martyr, the hero, the symbol, will become an all-Arab, all-Muslim mythological figure. His name will become a battle-cry for all revolutionaries from Indonesia to Morocco, a slogan for all religious and nationalist underground organizations.
The earth will tremble under the feet of all the Arab regimes. Compared to Arafat, the ultimate hero, all the kings, Emirs and presidents will look unmanly, traitors and mercenaries. If one of them falls, the Domino Effect will go into action.
Bloodshed will be universal. Every Israeli target–every airplane, every group of tourists, every Israeli institution, will be in constant danger.
The Americans have their reasons for vetoing the assassination. They know that the killing of Arafat will shake their position in the Arab and Muslim world to the core. The guerilla war that is becoming ever wider in Iraq will spread throughout the Arab and other Muslim countries and the world at large. Every Arab and Muslim will believe that Sharon acted with American consent and encouragement, whatever feeble verbal opposition there may have been. The fury will be directed against them. A host of new Bin Ladens will plot revenge.
Doesn’t Sharon understand all this? Of course he does. The political nobodies who constitute the government may be unable to see beyond the end of their noses, just like blinkered generals, whose only solution is to kill and destroy. But Sharon knows what the consequences are likely to be–and he relishes them.
Sharon wants to conclude the historic clash between Zionism and the Palestinian people with a clear-cut decision: solid Israeli control over the entire country and a situation that will compel the Palestinians to get out. Yasser Arafat is indeed the “total obstacle”, as defined in the government resolution, to the implementation of this design. And a period of anarchy and bloodshed would be good for its implementation.
And the people of Israel? The poor, brainwashed, despairing and apathetic people does not intervene. The silent, bleeding majority behaves as if all this does not concern them and their children. They are following Sharon as the children followed the pied piper, right into the river.
This thundering silence is disastrous. In order to prevent the disaster, it is our duty to break i
*This article here was first published in The Guardian on January 31, 2007 under the title, If Arafat were still alive.
If Arafat were alive…” One hears this phrase increasingly often in conversations with Palestinians, and also with Israelis and foreigners. “If Arafat were alive, what’s happening now in Gaza wouldn’t be happening…” “If Arafat were alive, we would have somebody to talk with…” “If Arafat were alive, Islamic fundamentalism would not have won among the Palestinians and would have lost some force in the neighbouring countries!”
In the meantime, the unanswered questions come up again: how did Yasser Arafat die? Was he murdered?
On the way back from Arafat’s funeral in 2004, I ran into Jamal Zahalka, a member of the Israeli Knesset. I asked him if he believed that Arafat was murdered. Zahalka, a doctor of pharmacology, answered “Yes!” without hesitation. That was my feeling too. But a hunch is not proof. It is only a product of intuition, common sense and experience.
Recently we got a kind of confirmation. Just before he died last month, Uri Dan, Ariel Sharon’s loyal mouthpiece for almost 50 years, published a book in France. It includes a report of a conversation Sharon told him about, with President Bush. Sharon asked for permission to kill Arafat and Bush gave it to him, with the proviso that it must be done undetectably. When Dan asked Sharon whether it had been carried out, Sharon answered: “It’s better not to talk about that.” Dan took this as confirmation.
The secret services of many countries have poisons that are all but undetectable. Ten years ago, Mossad tried to kill Khaled Mashal, the Hamas leader, in broad daylight on a thoroughfare in Amman. He was saved only when the Israeli government was compelled to provide the antidote to the poison it had used. Viktor Yushchenko, the president of Ukraine, was poisoned and saved only when the symptoms were identified by experts in time.
Is there proof Arafat was murdered by Israeli or other agents? No, there is none. This week I again ran into Zahalka, and both of us concluded that the suspicion is growing stronger, together with the conviction that Arafat’s absence is felt now more than ever.
If Arafat were alive, there would be a clear address for negotiations with the Palestinian people. The claimed absence of such an address is the Israeli government’s official pretext for its refusal to start peace talks. It is no use talking to Mahmoud Abbas, because he is unable to impose his will on Palestinians. He has no power. And we couldn’t possibly talk to the Hamas government, because it belongs to Bush’s “axis of evil”.
“When two quarrel, the third laughs,” as the proverb goes. When an Arab hits an Arab – whether in Baghdad, Gaza or Beirut – the government of Israel and its commentators in the media are glowing. When Arabs are fighting each other, that is good for us. This is a good strategy in war, which states have followed since the beginning of history. The question is: is this a good strategy when one wants to achieve peace? If – and it is a big if – the Israeli government desired peace, it would adopt the opposite strategy.
There is no chance of making peace with Abbas, nor would it have any value, without the full support of Hamas. But even a Fatah-Hamas partnership would not be broad enough to ensure a peaceful future for Israel. It would need the support of the whole Arab world. There lies the immense importance of the “Arab peace initiative” adopted by the Arab League in Beirut in 2002. Only a united Palestinian leadership, which enjoys the backing of the entire Arab world, can carry out such a revolutionary, historic undertaking. Not only should we not object to it, but we should demand it.
The terms of the Arab initiative are the same as those set out by Arafat in the 70s: a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, whose border is the Green Line (pre-1967 borders) and whose capital is East Jerusalem; the dismantling of the settlements; and an “agreed upon” solution of the refugee problem. Unofficially, Arafat also agreed to swaps of territory. There is practically no Palestinian, indeed no Arab, who would agree to less. It would leave the Palestinians a mere 22% of historic Palestine.
This can be achieved, provided Palestinians are united and the Arab world is united. That means getting the agreement of Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and also Iran, which, of course, is not Arab. Therefore, if one wants peace, one will not rejoice in the face of the bloodshed in Gaza and Lebanon. We have nothing to laugh about when Arab hits Arab. And, of course, if Arafat were alive, everything would be much easier.
*This article here was originally published since September 10, 2005 under the title, Who Murdered Arafat?
The day before yesterday the Haaretz headline screamed: “Doctors: Arafat died of Aids or poisoning”. Aids appeared in first place.
For dozens of years, the Israeli media has conducted, with government inspiration, a concentrated campaign against the Palestinian leader (with the sole exception of Haolam Hazeh, the news magazine I edited). Millions of words of hatred and demonization were poured on him, more than on any other person of his generation. If somebody thought that this would end after his death, he was mistaken. This article, signed by Avi Isasharof and Amos Harel, is a direct continuation of this smear campaign.
The key word is, of course, “Aids”. Throughout the long article there is no trace of proof for this allegation. The reporters quote “sources in the Israeli security establishment”. They also quote Israeli doctors “who heard from French doctors” – an original method for medical diagnosis. A respected Israeli professor even found conclusive proof: it was not published that Arafat had undergone an Aids test. True, a Tunisian medical team did test him in Ramallah and the result was negative, but who would believe Arabs?
Haaretz knows, of course, how to protect itself. Somewhere in the article, far away from the sensational headline, there appear the nine words: “The possibility that Arafat had Aids is not high”. So Haaretz is alright. In army parlance, its ass is covered. By comparison, the New York Times, which published a similar story on the same day, treated the Aids allegation with contempt.
There is a very simple proof for the spuriousness of the allegation: if it had even the most tenuous basis in fact, the huge propaganda apparatus of the Israeli government and the Jewish establishment throughout the world would have trumpeted it from the rooftops, instead of waiting for 10 months. But, as matter of fact, there is no evidence whatsoever. More than that, the writers themselves are compelled to admit that Arafat’s symptoms are completely incompatible with the picture of Aids.
So what did he die of?
Since taking part in his tumultuous funeral in Ramallah, I have abstained from giving my opinion on the cause of his death. I am not a doctor, and my dozens of years as editor of an investigative news magazine have taught me not to voice allegations which I am unable to prove in court.
But, since now all dikes have been breached, I am prepared to say what is on my mind: from the first moment, I was sure that Arafat had been poisoned.
Most of the doctors interviewed by Haaretz testified that the symptoms point towards poisoning, and, in fact, are incompatible with any other cause. The report of the French doctors, who treated Arafat during the last two weeks of his life, states that no known cause for his death was discovered. True, the tests did not find any traces of poison in his body – but the tests were conducted only for the usual poisons. It is no secret that many intelligence services in the world have developed poisons that cannot be detected at all, or whose traces disappear in a very short time.
Some years ago, Israeli agents poisoned the Hamas chief Khaled Mash’al with a slight prick in a main street of Amman. His life was saved only because King Hussein demanded that Israel immediately provide the antidote. (As a further indemnity, Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to the release from prison of another Hamas chief, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated several years after his return to Gaza by more conventional means – an airborne missile.)
In the absence of symptoms of any known disease, and since clear indications of poisoning were present, the highest probability is that Yasser Arafat was indeed poisoned while having dinner four hours before the first symptoms appeared.
I can testify that the security arrangements around the Ra’is were very lax. At each of my dozens of meetings with him in different countries I was always amazed at the ease with which a potential assassin could have done his job. Protection was always casual, especially compared to the way Israeli Prime Ministers are guarded. He often had his meals in the company of strangers, he embraced his visitors. Associates report that he frequently accepted sweets from strangers and also took medicines from visitors, swallowing them on the spot. After surviving dozens of assassination attempts, and even an airplane accident, he had come to adopt a fatalistic attitude, “it’s all in the hands of Allah”. I think that in his heart of hearts he really believed that Allah would preserve him until the completion of his historic mission.
If he was poisoned – by whom was he poisoned?
First suspicion falls, of course, on the Israeli security establishment. Indeed, Ariel Sharon declared on several occasions that he intended to kill him. The subject came up in cabinet meetings. Twice during the last years my friends and I were so convinced that this was imminent, that we went to the Mukata’ah in Ramallah to serve as a “human shield” for him. We were convinced that the murder of Arafat would cause much harm to Israel. In one of his interviews, Sharon stated that our presence there had prevented his liquidation.
Truth is that Sharon abstained from killing Arafat mostly because the Americans forbade it. They were afraid that the murder would arouse a huge storm in the Arab world and exacerbate anti-American terrorism. But this interdiction may have applied only to an overt act.
The Mash’al affair proves that the Israeli intelligence services have the means to poison people without leaving any trace. The poisoning was discovered only because the perpetrators were caught in flagrante.
However, a probability, high as it may be, is not proof. At the moment, there is no proof that Arafat was indeed poisoned by the Israeli services.
But if not the Israelis, who? The US intelligence services also have the necessary capabilities. President Bush never hid his hatred for Arafat, an obstinate leader who did not submit to his dictates. He was quick to embrace Mahmoud Abbas. Even now, American emissaries who visit the Mukata’ah pointedly abstain from putting wreaths on the grave of the Ra’is in the courtyard.
But American interests, too, do not constitute proof. One can think of several other suspects, even in the Arab world.
Did Arafat’s death benefit Sharon?
On the face of it, no. As long as Arafat was alive, American support for Israel was unlimited. But since his death, President Bush has been going out of his way to support his successor. The dismal American debacle in Iraq compels Bush to look for achievements elsewhere in the “Broader Middle East”. He presents Mahmoud Abbas as a symbol of the new winds blowing through the Arab and Muslim world as a result of American policy. In order to convince the Palestinian public to support Abbas, Bush is putting pressure on Sharon of a new sort. Perhaps Sharon is secretly longing for the good old days of Arafat, when life was simple and an enemy dressed the part.
But a person who wants – as Sharon surely does – to break the Palestinian people into pieces and prevent at any cost the establishment of a viable State of Palestine, can only be happy with the demise of Arafat, who united the entire Palestinian people. He had the moral authority to impose order, and he enforced it by empathy and force, human wisdom and tricks, threats and seduction.
There are many people in Israel who hoped that without him the Palestinian society would break apart, that anarchy would destroy its very foundations, that armed factions would kill each other and the national leadership. They are certainly glad that Arafat is dead and pray for the failure of Mahmoud Abbas.
Arafat assured me once that we would both see peace in our lifetime. He was prevented from seeing the day. He who caused this – whoever he is – has sinned not only against the Palestinian people, but also against peace, and therefore against Israel.
AUTHOR: Uri Avnery
Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and founder of the Gush Shalom Peace Bloc Movement and Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, the leading (and often sole) voice in Israel calling for the creation of the State of Palestine in all the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the release of all Palestinian prisoners, the dismantling of all settlements and the recognition of Jerusalem as the joint capital of both states. A member of the Irgun as a teenager, to fight against the British colonial regime, Avnery sat in the Knesset from 1965–74 and 1979–81. Since 1948 he has advocated the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with the PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yasser Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He is the original advocate behind the “Two-State Solution” idea and an alliance of Hebrews and Arabs for the liberation of the “Semitic Region” (a term coined by him so as to avoid the colonialist term Middle East) from imperialism and colonialism, to create a Semitic community and common market, as a part of the emerging third world. Avnery’s unflinching opposition to the nationalistic, theocratic “Jewish state” created by Ben-Gurion, and his advocacy of a modern, liberal state, belonging to all its citizens, irrespective of ethnic, national or religious roots is still very loud to the present Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was also the former Owner/Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of mass-circulated Hoalam Hazeh News Magazine, which became a unique Israeli institution and the mouthpiece for aggressive political opposition, and fought for the separation of state and religion, for human rights, the rights of the Arab minority, equality between Jews of European and Oriental descent, the adoption of a written constitution (still lacking), women’s rights, civil rights and much more. It was the first to uncover the facts of the infamous Lavon Affair (concerning an Israeli false flag operation in Egypt), as well as scores of corruption affairs. Since the early 1950’s, it resolutely advocated the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel and support for the Arab struggles for independence (Egypt, Algeria, Iraq etc.) until it got abolished due lack of funds. It also created a new Hebrew style, now adopted by all Israeli media, and served as a school for many of the young men and women who became outstanding Israeli journalists. Its official slogan, which became an Israeli byword, was: “Without Fear, Without Prejudice”. Enemies of Avnery (such as Aharon Amir, a prominent right-wing ideologue) accused him of “poisoning” two generations of Israeli youth, turning them away from the national ethos towards an ideology of “integration in the Semitic Region”. Indeed, perhaps the most important battle won by Avnery was the gradual change in Israeli national consciousness from a total denial of the very existence of a Palestinian people (Golda Meir: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people!”) towards the general recognition which made the Oslo agreement possible. This was a weekly effort that took some 40 years.