“Who killed Arafat?” That was the big question on November 6, when the findings of a team of Swiss forensic experts, sponsored by Al Jazeera to figure out what killed Arafat, were made public. The team found elevated levels of polonium while testing bone samples from the late Palestinian president's recently exhumed corpse. Although the Swiss scientists refused to declare their findings as conclusive evidence that Yasser Arafat was poisoned, the presence of polonium was enough to satisfy the believers. After years of conspiracy theories, proof finally existed to support the belief held by many Palestinians that their beloved Abu Ammar had been murdered.
Polonium is a nefarious compound. It is the same substance that caused Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko to age rapidly, turn purple, and die while the world bore witness. Polonium is also at the center of a major plot line currently playing out on the daytime soap opera General Hospital. Luke Spencer, the show’s leading man since he raped Laura in 1979, was recently dying of polonium poisoning. Luke had been given the poison by his arch nemesis, Helena Cassadine. His life was saved when Dr. Robin Scorpio successfully brewed up an antidote. Arafat was not as lucky as Luke. This was the real world, not a soap opera. Arafat was never even diagnosed and died on November 11, 2004, before he could be saved by a miracle cure.
From the day he died, Arafat's wife, Suha, has dedicated her life to spending his millions and finding out who killed her sugar daddy. Like OJ looking for his ex-wife Nicole's murderer, Arafat's widow never gave up searching for the culprit. The Swiss findings finally gave Suha the ammunition she needed to go after the people she believed were responsible for killing the father of her child.
I was from the camp that never believed that Arafat was poisoned. Every time I heard the theory, I would dismiss it; so when I found out that someone really did take out the old man, I too immediately wanted to know who killed Arafat. Currently, there are three main suspects: Ariel Sharon, who was Israel's PM at the time; someone in Arafat’s inner circle, meaning someone from Fatah; or Mrs. Peacock in the library with the candlestick.
The revelation that Arafat was indeed poisoned is bad news for his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, whose leadership is already on shaky ground. November has not been kind to the current Palestinian president. Abu Mazen’s old rival, Mohammed Dahlan, resurfaced to challenge Abbas's authority to sign any deal in the name of the Palestinian people.
Dahlan is best known for losing control of Gaza to Hamas during a failed coup following the 2006 parliamentary elections. Dahlan, who was also a member of Fatah and was run out of town on a rail by Abu Mazen in 2010, had been chilling in Abu Dhabi for the past couple of years. Last week Dahlan made his comeback on Youtube in a 13-minute home movie. In the clip, he sits in front of a picture of the late Yasser Arafat and proceeds to accuse Mahmoud Abbas of committing every crime Abbas had accused Dahlan of when he chased him out of Ramallah, from corruption to collaboration.
After the video was posted, folks began wondering if Dahlan was making a play for power. Would he run for president? Would the Palestinians ever hold elections again? If Dahlan does have his eyes on the prize, someone should remind him that Miley Cyrus has a better chance of being elected Palestinian president than he does. Palestinians never forget. Dahlan may not be a viable option, but Abbas’s term is long up and Fatah does need a new leader. I suggest this alternative to elections: Fatah should choose Abbas's successor by seeing which candidate has the guts to go to Gaza and turn the lights back on without getting shot in the face.
The news that the late Yasser Arafat was in reality quite possibly poisoned will cause even more discord within the already floundering Fatah party. Accusations that everyone in Arafat’s inner circle, including Dahlan and Abbas, served up his death sentence were thrown about willy-nilly. Hamas grabbed a bucket of popcorn and watched with glee while Israel adamantly denied any involvement in Arafat's untimely death.
If Abu Ammar was in fact poisoned, it had to have happened in the Muqata, the presidential compound in Ramallah. Only a select few had access to Arafat, who at the time was under siege and trapped in his castle by the Israelis. Therefore, it is popular opinion that whoever tampered with Arafat's tea or toast to give him the fatal dose had to be someone very close. For years, there were whispers that Yasser Arafat, the man in a crooked kuffiyeh who won a Noble Peace Prize for signing the disastrous Oslo Accords and came to symbolize Palestine, had been murdered. Now the Palestinian people had proof that their flawed icon was indeed martyred.
Proof that the Palestinian Godfather, Yasser Arafat, had abnormal levels of polonium in his system overshadowed both Kerry’s latest peace push trip and the prodigal son Mohammed Dahlan’s Youtube comeback. Who killed Arafat was the question of the day, even though finding his murderer would do absolutely nothing to ease the daily oppression endured by the Palestinian people or unite the divided house.
I am no Miss Marple, but I have my own theory as to who perpetrated this crime. I believe it was Helena Cassadine from General Hospital. It is the only thing that would make sense in this story that is stranger than fiction.
Unfortunately, life is not a soap opera. Yasser Arafat cannot come back from the dead and tell us who poisoned him. On November 11, the Palestinians plan to take to the streets to protest. While "Who killed Arafat?" makes for good coffee talk, the protestors who plan to march on the ninth anniversary of Arafat's death are far more concerned with the ever-expanding illegal settlements, the house demolitions, and Gaza descending into darkness than solving an almost decade-old whodunnit.