Days after an Al Jazeera investigation found traces of radioactive polonium in the belongings of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, this conspiracy theory has jumped into legitimate, diplomacy-threatening territory with Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly approving Arafat's exhumation. "We are on the way to an autopsy," Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said in an Associated Press report Monday, approving what Palestinian officials and Arafat's widow have been pushing for since the findings. Last week Abbas said he would be open to approving an autopsy provided Arafat's family and religious authorities gave permission.
What they hope to find in the autopsy is evidence to figure out whether Arafat was indeed poisoned by a radioactive agent which was found on his clothing, personal items like his toothbrush, even his soiled underwear. Arafat's wife, Suha, has been pushing for an autopsy since its finding. The AP added, "The exhumation would create a huge spectacle that could upset some devout Muslims, though there seems to be a widespread desire among Palestinians to determine the cause of death."
The troubling part of this, aside from the fact that the autopsy would disturb devout Muslims, is that there might not be answer to who killed Arafat, but rather one big, perhaps dangerous assumption. As Time's Karl Vick reports, "one assumption making the rounds is that Israeli agents used it to remove the dangerous nuisance — the static — that the Palestinian leader had become four years into the second intifadeh and 10 years after the crushed promise of the Oslo accords." Al Jazeera, which conducted the nine-month investigation, explains that figuring out who killed him would still be difficult even if traces of polonium were found in his body. "[A] conclusive finding that Arafat was poisoned with polonium would not explain who killed him. It is a difficult element to produce, though – it requires a nuclear reactor – and the signature of the polonium in Arafat’s bones could provide some insight about its origin," wrote Al Jazeera.
Unfortunately, we won't get results until the Swiss team arrives. The AP mentions they will be contacted on Monday or Tuesday, giving plenty of time for even more theories and more speculation to fester.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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