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Al-Jazeera does it again: Arafat poisoning claim backed by journal

In July 2012 Al-Jazeera published the results of “an investigation into the mysterious death of the late Palestinian leader [which] reveals that he may have been poisoned” with radioactive polonium 210. Al-Jazeera and Arafat’s widow Suha were behind the investigation. The scientific investigation was the work of the experts at Institut de Radiophysique at Lausanne University, Switzerland.

The findings have led Suha Arafat to ask the Palestinian Authority to exhume her late husband’s body from its grave in Ramallah for further testing, which happened in November 2012.

On July 11, 2012, I published an article in the Jerusalem Post in which I tried to prove that the investigation by the Swiss scientists was not taking in consideration all the background of the French medical and scientific investigations and the history of Arafat’s belongings used in the tests provided by his widow and her lawyer. I evaluated at the time that this was an attempt to accuse and delegitimize not only Israel, but perhaps much more so Mahmoud Abbas and the PA leadership for the death of Arafat.

On October 12, 2013, Al-Jazeera published an article, “Arafat poisoning claim backed by journal,” based on a peer review article published by the serious British medical journal The Lancet.
According to Al-Jazeera “[the] findings support the possibility of Arafat’s poisoning with 210Po … on the basis of [the] forensic investigation, there was sufficient doubt to recommend the exhumation of his body in 2012”.

As The Lancet article can be read only if purchased with 31$, I decided to base my analysis of the Al-Jazeera new “scoop” on the article “Arafat and Polonium Poisoning: A Sort-of Update” by Deborah Blum on Wired, an online technology news website, from which I take the liberty to cite largely.

“According to the [Al-Jazeera] report, independent scientists had reviewed earlier findings by Swiss scientists and: “endorsed their work, which found high levels of the highly radioactive element in blood, urine, and saliva stains on the Palestinian leader’s clothes and toothbrush”.
In the Al Jazeera piece you’ll find a link to the Lancet paper (paywall). It takes you to an essay titled: “Improving Forensic Investigation for Polonium Poisoning.” And this essay is written not by a panel of independent experts but by scientists affiliated with the Institute for Radiation Physics in Lausanne, Switzerland. This is the laboratory that did the initial testing on which Al Jazeera based its report on Arafat’s death. And these are the scientists reviewing that work; this essay is far more cautious than the news agency’s analysis would lead you to believe.
The scientists note that Arafat’s illness did not follow some of the classic lines of radiation exposure, such as immune suppression and hair loss. They also acknowledge that this doesn’t rule out radiation poisoning; that not all people respond identically and that other symptoms, such as nausea or fatigue, do fit the pattern…
The scientists also acknowledge that the fact Arafat died in 2004 made it difficult to do precise readings of polonium-210 which is known to decay relatively rapidly…“An autopsy would have been useful in this case,” the researchers say, and they recommend that in the future, when poison might be suspected, tissue and blood samples be taken and preserved for later investigation. That’s, in fact, the conclusion of the essay. So why would Al Jazeera describe this as all out support for the poisoning theory?” end of citation!

Interestingly, a Palestinian Authority official reacted swiftly. Tawfik Al-Tirawi, head of the Palestinian committee investigating Arafat’s death, told Xinhua that the journal “brought nothing new”, noting it based its study on a 2012 investigative report by Al-Jazeera. “There are no leaks from the results and we are still waiting for the official test findings,” said Al-Tirawi, adding there is no official time set for receiving the results.

I will let my readers judge by themselves Al-Jazeera’s Middle Eastern political agenda in these chaotic days of the so-called “Arab Spring.”