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A nine month investigation into Yasser Arafat's unexplained death by Al Jazeera found a smoking atomic gun, Polonium-210. At least 80% of the Polonium, which is naturally found associated with uranium and it's decay products, was unassociated, indicating it came from neutron activation of Bismuth-209 in a nuclear reactor. If this was a poisoning, as it appears to be, only a very sophisticated group with access to nuclear facilities could have pulled it off.

Direct sampling of Yasser Arafat's body, if permitted, could show beyond a reasonable doubt that he was poisoned. Poisoning by unsupported Polonium could not happen naturally because it does not exist unsupported in nature.

Eight years after his death, it remains a mystery exactly what killed the longtime Palestinian leader. Tests conducted in Paris found no obvious traces of poison in Arafat’s system. Rumors abound about what might have killed him – cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, even allegations that he was infected with HIV.

A nine-month investigation by Al Jazeera has revealed that none of those rumors were true: Arafat was in good health until he suddenly fell ill on October 12, 2004.

More importantly, tests reveal that Arafat’s final personal belongings – his clothes, his toothbrush, even his iconic kaffiyeh – contained abnormal levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element. Those personal effects, which were analyzed at the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, were variously stained with Arafat’s blood, sweat, saliva and urine. The tests carried out on those samples suggested that there was a high level of polonium inside his body when he died.

Originally posted to FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 11:56 AM PDT.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So, Qui Bono? (11+ / 0-)

    ...seems like a lot of people benefit from the man's death...hard to decide who's most likely behind such a murder...  Seems to me the Spies-Previously-Known-As-The-KGB have used that method in the past....

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:03:03 PM PDT

    •  Mossad maybe ? (9+ / 0-)

      The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

      by Azazello on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:08:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Polonium apparently produced by Weizmann (4+ / 0-)

        Institute in Israel.  Polonium:

        According to the book The Bomb in the Basement, several death cases in Israel during 1957–1969 were caused by 210Po.[70] A leak was discovered at a Weizmann Institute laboratory in 1957. Traces of 210Po were found on the hands of professor Dror Sadeh, a physicist who researched radioactive materials. Medical tests indicated no harm, but the tests did not include bone marrow. Sadeh died from cancer. One of his students died of leukemia, and two colleagues died after a few years, both from cancer. The issue was investigated secretly, and there was never any formal admission that a connection between the leak and the deaths had existed.[71]

        The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

        by lysias on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:01:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Polonium is very hard to handle (13+ / 0-)

      I don't think the Russians were motivated to do this deed and there are only a few other countries with the motive and expertise to pull it off without making a huge mess.

      If recent history is a clue I would suspect the same organizations that were involved in the Stuxnet attack on Iran's nuclear centrifuges.

      look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

      by FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:09:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If Arafat was about to do something the (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pluto, Farugia, doingbusinessas, G2geek

        Russians didn't care for they might well have been motivated.

        The thing about this murder method is that it requires close personal access ... and continual.

        The leap from Iran to Arafat does not follow. The PLO and Iran are hardly the same.

        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

        by blue aardvark on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:30:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed that we don't know yet. (5+ / 0-)

          At this point the tests showing Polonium contamination need to be confirmed by an independent lab with independent evidence.

          And, at this point, we have zero evidence of who did it if it was done. My comment above is speculation.

          look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

          by FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:41:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There was speculation at the time of his (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FishOutofWater, G2geek, myboo, leftykook

            death that Israel would have preferred he NOT die inasmuch as the PLO was more tractable than Hamas, as subsequent events showed.

            The difficulty of obtaining the Polonium points to the involvement of a state actor ... but which state and why?

            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

            by blue aardvark on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:47:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  so let's go down the list: (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              blue aardvark

              The only entities that could do it are ones that have a civilian nuclear reactor capability.

              Russia: has the means, does not have the motive.

              Israel: ditto, and the Israelis were negotiating with him at the time.

              Iran: Hmm... if Iran was backing Hammas that might make sense.

              USA: same case as Russia and Israel: means but not motive.

              Of these the only one I can't rule out is Iran, but that doesn't mean they're the guilty party.  

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:02:04 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  OK, let's add everyone with nuclear (4+ / 0-)

                capability to the list:
                1) China
                2) Pakistan
                3) India
                4) Japan
                5) European states en masse: UK, France, Germany

                Of that list, I would point to Pakistan. Their control of their nuclear program is not as complete as the others, they have some radicals who would have wanted to see the PLO supplanted by Hamas, and they have a relatively good intelligence service.

                The possibility that Iraq had some left lying around from their mothballed nuke program and Saddam used it to further his own goals seems less likely because of the intense scrutiny Iraq has been under the last few years.

                In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

                by blue aardvark on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:11:52 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  ka-ching! we have a winner! (7+ / 0-)

                  Pakistan.  I should have known but as usual i'm on here in the middle of pauses in worky-work and my attention is split.  

                  Pakistan's gov particularly ISI, is infested with all manner of nasties, and we have already seen how the various factions in Pakistan play merrily on both sides of the fence (until the Seals swooped on their "guest").  

                  Pak shouldn't have any kind of nuclear capability including civilian reactors, until they can demonstrate that their gov isn't a Swiss cheese full of mice.  Even Iran runs a tighter ship than Pak, despite having a head of state who frequently comes off like a Nazi lunatic on meth.  

                  "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                  by G2geek on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:42:03 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  nope (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Terra Mystica

                  Po-210 has a half-life of 138 days. The source wasn't something "left lying around". And i doubt that Pakistan has the wherewithal to produce it in any significant amount. The Russians sell it to the US for ~$2 million per gram, btw.

                  All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

                  by subtropolis on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 06:53:40 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  The Soviets were his ally. (7+ / 0-)

      It must have been disgruntled Palestinians, as suggested elsewhere in the comments. Doubtless they got the stuff from their polonium farms.

      Who else could possibly hate him enough to dose his stuff?


      The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

      by Jim P on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:11:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Syria? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Creosote, leftykook

      The Assads and Arafat have absolutely no love for each other.  Syria was bombing PLO positions in Beirut even as Arafat was making his evacuation to Tunisia.  In more recent years, Syria had sponsored

      Arafat's death paved the way for the Palestinian elections which ushered in Syrian-sponsored Hamas into power.

      And 2004 was also the year Syria assassinated former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri and a litany of other anti-Syrian pols in Beirut.  Which brought about the Cedar Revolution resulting in Syria's withdrawal of troops from Lebanon.

      And yeah, I wouldn't be surprised to find Assad was on friendly terms with whatever hitmen did in Litvinenko.

      Something to ponder.

      Follow Me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/#!/TarantinoDork

      by TarantinoDork on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 05:30:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hariri was killed in 2005 not 2004 (0+ / 0-)

        and as far as I know, the UN investigation into Hariri's death has long ago found no evidence to suggest Syria assassinated Hariri. In fact, the entire case was found to rest on the hear-say testimony of several witnesses who later recanted their intital testimony but who have never suffered the consequences of their perjury. Hezbollah operatives are now being tried on very flimsy circumstantial evidence.

        It's true Arafat and Hafez al-Asad did not have a good relationship but I doubt al-Asad was involved in Arafat's death.  But Arafat was confined in his Ramallah compound for over 2 years prior to his death by the Israelis. I'm not sure how Syrian operatives could have gained the material or the access to do it.

        Speculation is all well and good but motive as well as opportunity need to be considered as well.

    •  Cui bono. Double dative, (0+ / 0-)

      and cui is the dative singular of the interrogative pronoun.

      The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

      by lysias on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 12:33:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ugh. When it comes to the Bush Administration (9+ / 0-)

    years, nothing would surprise me. Seriously, those 8 years are so stranger than fiction that a tin foil hat would need it's own tin foil hat.

    If I knew it was going to be that kind of party, I'd have stuck my ---- in the mashed potatoes! - Paul's Boutique

    by DoctorWho on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:04:10 PM PDT

  •  He was 75, no mystery at all. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    retro postmodernist, doc2

    And there weren't even tests of the body.  Try better next time.

    Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

    by Loge on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:06:12 PM PDT

  •  Wouldn't surprise me if it was an inside job (5+ / 0-)

    How much money did he skim into his personal accounts as people in his country starved?

    Here's a good link explaining his net worth at his time of death.

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:06:17 PM PDT

    •  Inside job by whom? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto, blue aardvark, Karl Rover

      As noted, this is a very hard to get substance, where in the hell is anyone in the PLO going to get it?

      I'm surprised more testing wasn't done at the time.

      But if true, with Afghanistan and Iraq going on, I would imagine it was the Israelis, they had the most to gain by stirring up more trouble and the Bush administration occupied with Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

      by absdoggy on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:13:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hopefully, it's one of the two: (0+ / 0-)

        The US or Israel.

        Who can feel comfortable with any other scenario?


        The US is the only industrialized nation where gun ownership is a right, health care is a privilege, infant mortality is on the rise, and the constitution is written to appease slave holders rather than to benefit citizens.

        by Pluto on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:19:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not comfortable with your scenario (0+ / 0-)

          I don't see the US doing it.  First of all, it is illegal to assassinate a leader of a country, even the PLO.  I wouldn't put it passed Bush and Cheney, but what reason did they have to do it.  Arafat was against the wars, but he sure wasn't alone.  I guess Israel is the most likely state actor in this situation.  They may have had a desire to stir the pot and I suspect assassinating a sworn enemy would not get anyone in trouble.  

          Of course, if we consider Al Qaeda as a country (which it isn't), assassinating it's leader would have been illegal as well.  And everyone knows who authorized that.  

          "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength", George Orwell, "1984" -7.63 -5.95

          by dangoch on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:44:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Who knows? Only thing for certain is that (0+ / 0-)

            the cheney-bush cabal had a bucket list (sorry) that they worked down, and Arafat was on it.

            "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Sie Angelegenheit nicht mehr.

            by Bluefin on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 03:17:32 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not comfortable with (0+ / 0-)

            ...with a non-nuclear power committing the crime. If that is the case, then I would think geopolitical face time is a thing of the past.

            Anyway -- motive and opportunity are the key clues.


            The US is the only industrialized nation where gun ownership is a right, health care is a privilege, infant mortality is on the rise, and the constitution is written to appease slave holders rather than to benefit citizens.

            by Pluto on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 03:17:57 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  His wife? (0+ / 0-)

        With the amount of money the Arafat family controlled they could probably have bought their own nuclear submarine had they wanted one.

        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

        by blue aardvark on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:32:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  By one of his political opponents (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blue aardvark, cotterperson

        Arafat wasn't popular with all Palestinians - especially, his political opponents - he had been using money funneled to him by Israel to buy influence among his people.  

        Now, it wouldn't surprise me if the US or Israel didn't have a "helping hand"......

        The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

        by ctexrep on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:33:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Polonium-210 (13+ / 0-)

    From the AJE article:

    “I can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr. Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids,” said Dr. Francois Bochud, the director of the institute.
    Which is interesting because, it's been used to kill people before, sometimes unintentionally like in Israel's case. According to this 2007 LA Times article:
    The Curies' daughter Irene also fell victim to the isotope. She died of leukemia in 1956, 10 years after a sealed capsule of polonium-210 was accidentally broken in her laboratory at the Radium Institute in Paris.

    About the same time, scientists developing Israel's nuclear program were exposed to its lethal effects.

    The first signs of contamination were the traces of radiation on the laboratory desk of Israeli physicist Dror Sadeh. He had taken what he thought were adequate precautions against the hyperactive element.

    But those precautions weren't enough. Radiation was discovered "in my private home, and on my hands too and on everything that I touched," he wrote in his diary.

    Within a month, one student who worked in Sadeh's lab at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, was dead from leukemia. The lab's supervisor died a few years later -- contaminated by polonium-210 as well, Sadeh suspected.

    •  Thanks. I corrected the error. Interesting article (11+ / 0-)

      I didn't sleep well last night & made a dumb mistake in haste.

      Wikipedia on Polonium toxicity.

      Overview

      Polonium is highly dangerous and has no biological role.[14] By mass, polonium-210 is around 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide (the actual LD50 for 210Po is less than 1 microgram for an average adult (see below) compared with about 250 milligrams for hydrogen cyanide[53]). The main hazard is its intense radioactivity (as an alpha emitter), which makes it very difficult to handle safely. Even in microgram amounts, handling 210Po is extremely dangerous, requiring specialized equipment (a negative pressure alpha glove box equipped with high performance filters), adequate monitoring, and strict handling procedures to avoid any contamination. Alpha particles emitted by polonium will damage organic tissue easily if polonium is ingested, inhaled, or absorbed, although they do not penetrate the epidermis and hence are not hazardous as long as the alpha particles remain outside of the body. Meanwhile, wearing chemically resistant and "intact" gloves is a mandatory precaution to avoid transcutaneous diffusion of polonium directly through the skin. Polonium delivered in concentrated nitric acid can easily diffuse through inadequate gloves (e.g., latex gloves) or the acid may damage the gloves.
      Acute effects

      The median lethal dose (LD50) for acute radiation exposure is generally about 4.5 Sv.[54] The committed effective dose equivalent 210Po is 0.51 µSv/Bq if ingested, and 2.5 µSv/Bq if inhaled.[55] Since 210Po has an activity of 166 TBq per gram (4,500 Ci/g)[55] (1 gram produces 166×1012 decays per second), a fatal 4.5 Sv (J/kg) dose can be caused by ingesting 8.8 MBq (238 microcuries, µCi), about 50 nanograms (ng), or inhaling 1.8 MBq (48 µCi), about 10 ng. One gram of 210Po could thus in theory poison 20 million people of whom 10 million would die. The actual toxicity of 210Po is lower than these estimates, because radiation exposure that is spread out over several weeks (the biological half-life of polonium in humans is 30 to 50 days[56]) is somewhat less damaging than an instantaneous dose. It has been estimated that a median lethal dose of 210Po is 0.015 GBq (0.4 mCi), or 0.089 micrograms, still an extremely small amount.[57][58]

      look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

      by FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:24:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  truly nasty shit. (6+ / 0-)

        Plutonium, everyone's favorite "scary radioisotope" is somewhere 100x LESS toxic than polonium.

        And polonium can't be used to generate power.  What use does it have aside from odd research applications?

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:07:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The only surprise I feel (if this was an (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, subtropolis

          assassination and 210Po was the cause) is that this very difficult to obtain (and handle) substance was used at all.

          Why not use a much more common substance... unless the intent was to get fingers pointing at a short list?

          Is it normal for tinfoil to cause an itch?

          'If you want to be a hero, well just follow me.' - J. Lennon

          by Clive all hat no horse Rodeo on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 03:34:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  that's the puzzle. (1+ / 0-)

            The only reason I can think of to use polonium is because it's fatal at below one microgram for adult body weight, and it's an alpha emitter: two characteristics that would make it very difficult to detect unless one were specifically looking for something like that.  And it's a slow poison: it doesn't kill quickly like arsenic and so on, it mimics a rapid onset of the ills of old age, or leukemia, or some other disease with an etiology that usually does not point to poison.  

            IF the stuff was actually found in his bodily fluid samples, then there's no way it could have gotten there by accident, hence assassination.  That leaves us with the classic mystery: who did it, how did they do it, and why did they do it?

            Israel was intent on negotiation, and the US had an interest in peaceful outcomes, and it's rare that the US and Israel oppose each other on issues of this type.  So that removes two countries that have the means.  Pakistan, Iran, who knows?

            Middle Eastern politics are governed by serious population overshoot of resources, and have been ever since the Fertile Crescent was over-farmed and turned into a desert.  The entire history of the Abrahamic traditions is one of coping with those issues and seeking to reduce the level of violence within their own tribes/societies.  But in a zero-sum ecosystem, violence is a quantity that has to be stored somewhere, so if not within one's own society, then exported as externalized entropy.  QED the rest of Middle Eastern history, driven by the dire and dismal thermodynamics.

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 06:42:01 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  The most recent polonium incident was a (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Terra Mystica

      Russian oligarch exile living in London  (forgot his name). The contamination trail was traced all over town. The Russkies stonewalled it, Brits quietly forgot it.

      "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Sie Angelegenheit nicht mehr.

      by Bluefin on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 03:10:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I hope that you are wrong. (4+ / 0-)

    Interesting.

  •  wouldn't be surprised at all (4+ / 0-)

    -You want to change the system, run for office.

    by Deep Texan on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:21:37 PM PDT

  •  It would be very nice to know the bona fides (8+ / 0-)

    of Institut de Radiophysique, and also the chain of custody of Arafat's belongings.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:27:44 PM PDT

  •  Radiation poisoning produces characteristic (4+ / 0-)

    symptoms.

    Is there any evidence that Arafat suffered any of these at the time of his death?

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:35:46 PM PDT

  •  Arafat was a POS and all, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater

    but poisoning is an especially shitty and cowardly method of assassination, imo. I'm really hoping the U.S. and/or Israel weren't involved, but they seem the most likely suspects.

    How's that hope and change working out? Ask someone with a preexisting medical condition, a GM employee who still has a job, or Osama bin Laden's widows.

    by liberaldeminpittsburgh on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 03:34:46 PM PDT

  •  Interesting story.. (2+ / 0-)

    ..but unless there is an exhumation I don't think it goes anywhere.   And I could be wrong but my guess is there won't be one.  

  •  unassociated (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Terra Mystica

    That apparently should be "unsupported". However, i've yet to figure out just what that means in a chemical/radiological sense. It seems the suggestion is that the Po could not have come from the environment. Can anyone confirm that?

    All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

    by subtropolis on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 06:37:40 PM PDT

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