by Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinians renewed their allegations that Israel was responsible for the "assassination" of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. But a thorough reading of the Swiss scientists' report shows that their findings are inconclusive. Russian scientists who also examined the remains have said there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that Arafat may have died in 2004 by polonium poisoning.While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was busy in the Middle East last week trying to prevent the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Palestinians renewed their allegation that Israel was responsible for the "assassination" of the Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat.
Many Palestinians are saying that Israel could not have "killed" Arafat without help from the people who were very close to him. According to this theory, the same Palestinian officials who have been pointing a finger at Israel may themselves have been involved in the death of Arafat. "I am sure it is someone in his close circle, " Arafat's widow, Suha, Arafat told Reuters last week. "It must have been someone close to him."
The nine-year-old Palestinian allegation -- that Israel had poisoned Arafat -- was this time based on the findings of Swiss scientists who conducted tests on his remains and soil taken from his grave.
But a thorough reading of the Swiss scientists' report shows that their findings are inconclusive. Still, the Palestinian Authority [PA] is not willing to let the facts stand in its way.
The scientists wrote that "taking into account the analytical limitations, mostly time lapse since the death and the nature and quality of the specimens, the results moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-201."
However, Russian scientists who also examined Arafat's remains have said that there was insufficient evidence to support the the claim that Arafat may have died in 2004 by polonium poisoning.
The Swiss and Russian scientists did not conduct a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding Arafat's death. All that they did last November was take samples from Arafat's body in a bid to determine the cause of death.
But for the PA leadership, the inconclusive findings of the Swiss scientists was sufficient enough to once again hold Israel responsible for the "assassination of martyr Yasser Arafat."
Since the 108-page Swiss report was published by the Al-Jazeera news channel last week, PA officials have been waging a campaign of incitement against Israel.
The PA's campaign has created the false impression among Palestinians that the Swiss scientists were the ones who pointed a finger at Israel. The PA has also created the false impression that the findings of the scientists were conclusive and uncontroversial.
A Palestinian Authority honor guard at attention over Yasser Arafat's tombstone in Ramallah, 2008. (Image source: Tristam Sparks)
The Palestinian allegations against Israel took place while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and top Palestinian officials in Bethlehem on Wednesday, to discuss ways of moving forward with the U.S.-sponsored peace talks with Israel. The charges escalated even as Kerry and Abbas met for the second time in Jordan the following day.
On Friday, shortly after Kerry left the region, Palestinian officials took the case a step further by calling a press conference in Ramallah where they declared that Israel was the "only accused" in the mysterious death of Arafat.
"Israel is the first, only and major accused in the assassination of President Yasser Arafat," Tawfik Tirawi, head of a Palestinian committee entrusted with investigating Arafat's death, announced at the start of the press conference.
The Palestinian charges against Israel regarding the death of Arafat are not new. These charges, which have never been verified, surfaced almost on the first day when Arafat fell ill in his presidential compound in Ramallah.
Palestinian officials have since used annual rallies to commemorate the anniversary of Arafat's death to repeat charges that Israel had poisoned their leader.
These allegations should be seen in the context of the Palestinian Authority's ongoing efforts to delegitimize Israel and pave the way for filing "war crimes" charges against Israelis in various international forums, especially the International Criminal Court [ICC].
In the past few days, a number of Palestinian officials said in wake of the findings of the Swiss report that it was time to take Israel to the ICC for its ostensible role in the death of Arafat.
This is the same Palestinian Authority that has been telling its people that Jews release wild pigs in the West Bank to destroy agricultural fields and rats in the Old City of Jerusalem to drive Arab residents out of their homes.
More recently, Palestinian media outlets also reported that the IDF had been seen releasing snakes in certain areas of Bethlehem to intimidate Palestinians and drive them out of their homes. They also reported that Jews have been poisoning Palestinian water wells in Hebron.
So while Abbas was reaffirming his commitment to peace during the recent meetings with Kerry, PA officials and media outlets were telling their people that the Israelis must be punished for "poisoning" Arafat and perpetrating various "crimes" against Palestinians.
This is the kind of talk that drives young Palestinians to take to the streets with the intention of killing the first Jew they meet. The renewed incitement may be responsible for last week's two separate attacks on IDF soldiers in the West Bank. In both cases, the two Palestinian attackers were shot and killed by IDF soldiers.
The anti-Israel incitement causes huge damage to Kerry's continued efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The incitement radicalizes Palestinians to a point where many are starting to talk about the need for revenge, and not peace.
The Palestinian Authority is also shooting itself in the foot by repeatedly accusing Israel of being behind the "assassination" of Arafat. Many Palestinians are saying that Israel could not have "killed" Arafat without help from the people who were very close to him.
According to this theory, the same Palestinian officials who have been pointing a finger at Israel may themselves have been involved in the death of Arafat. So the charges against Israel are coming back to haunt Abbas and several senior Palestinian officials.
"I'm sure it's someone in his close circle," Arafat's widow, Suha, told Reuters last week. "The expert said that the poison was put in his tea, or coffee or water. It must have been someone close to him."
Khaled Abu Toameh
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