Tag Archives: Arafat

Bad taste at the Guardian: Coleslaw with a pinch of Polonium

Under the memorable headline “Making Cole-slaw of history,” Martin Kramer documented some years ago just how hilarious it is that Juan Cole calls his blog “Informed Comment” (and for “Cole-slaw”-fans, there is in fact a rich archive of additional helpings).  However, it’s apparently no joke that Cole, who is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, encourages the readers of his blog to send him money because “Informed Comment is made possible by your support.”

 In any case, it’s arguably hardly surprising that editors at the Guardian are fans of Juan Cole, and when the professor recently vented his displeasure at Mitt Romney’s visit in Israel, the Guardian secured Cole’s “kind permission” to cross-post the piece on its Comment is Free (CiF) site.

The Guardian made a minor change to Cole’s original title – which read on CiF: “Ten reasons Mitt Romney’s Israel visit is in bad taste” – and added a sub-title: “The Republican presidential hopeful is holding a fundraiser and playing war enabler in Israel – it’s wrong on so many levels.”

The astonishing claim that Romney was “playing war enabler in Israel” is taken from Cole’s reason #7, which reads in part:

“Romney is promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran. When George W Bush promised his pro-Israel supporters a war on Iraq, it cost the US at least $3 trillion, got hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, destabilised the Gulf for some time, cost over 4,000 American soldiers’ lives and damaged American power and credibility and the economy.”

Of course, Cole’s link to an AP report does not show Romney “promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran” – indeed, why should this blood libel be different from all the other invented accusations against blood-thirsty Jews over the centuries?

What Cole is claiming here is plainly that Romney’s “donors in Jerusalem” want a war on Iran, just like the “pro-Israel supporters” of George W Bush wanted and got an incredibly costly and bloody war on Iraq. It’s really just another version of a paragraph from Article 22 of the Hamas Charter:

“They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. […] There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.”

The day after the Guardian featured Cole’s fantasies about Israel’s insatiable appetite for bloody wars and its mysterious ability to get the US to fight them, it was time for a Guardian-sponsored rehash of Al Jazeera’s pathetic attempts to revive rumors about Yasser Arafat’s death.

Some four weeks earlier, Al Jazeera had announced with great pomp and circumstance that it had conducted an “investigation” that pointed to poisoning with radioactive Polonium; however, conspiracy theories about Arafat’s death have been around ever since he died in November 2004, and even the specific claim that he was poisoned with Polonium is nothing new. While Al Jazeera’s new program succeeded in unleashing a veritable “orgy of conspiratorial theorizing” – with Israel as a favorite target – the people behind Al Jazeera’s “investigation” are apparently hoping to get yet more mileage out of this story, and the Guardian seems only too willing to provide a platform to the assorted conspiracy theorists.

There have been already countless reports and commentaries refuting the Al Jazeera “investigation,” but it’s perhaps worthwhile to add one particularly interesting testimony on Arafat’s death from a long and fascinating Atlantic report that was published in September 2005 under the title “In a Ruined Country: How Yasir Arafat destroyed Palestine.” One of the people interviewed for this report was the Palestinian billionaire businessman Munib al-Masri; here are the relevant parts of the report:

“Talk of Arafat’s last illness makes al-Masri sad again. “Every morning I used to go see him and give him the medicine because he would not take it from anybody else,” he remembers, looking moodily out over his lawn. “Yeah, and I never thought he would die.”

“How long did you know that he was sick?” I ask.

“For the last year. Last year in September he told me he doesn’t feel well. So, and he felt that something was not right, and it looks like he had the same symptoms again, but the last time he had enough immunity. Yeah, he knew.”

I am struck by al-Masri’s use of the word “immunity,” which is a word characteristically associated with aids. Rumors that Arafat died of “a shameful illness” spread quickly through the West Bank and Gaza. […] The Palestinian leadership denounced reports that Arafat was a homosexual as lies spread by Mossad, the Israeli foreign-intelligence agency. Accounts also circulated that a secret agreement had been reached between the Israelis and Arafat’s heirs, stipulating that the truth about Arafat’s fatal illness would not be released, the Palestinian leader would be buried in Ramallah and not in Jerusalem, and the wanted men who had accompanied him in his captivity would not be pursued by Israeli forces.

“He knew that it was the same disease that he had a year ago?” I ask. Al-Masri nods his head.

“Same symptoms,” he answers. “But look how strong he was. I mean, when Abu Mazen came,” he says, referring to Arafat’s longtime deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, “we brought him from one bed in his small room to a bigger room where we could sit. I sat on the bed. Abu Mazen sat in front of him and Abu Alaa sat in front of him. He said, ‘Ah, Mazen.’ His face was very red, and you know that he was very sick, but he wants to show that he was still in control of the details with Mazen, you know? He said, ‘I have this flu, ah, ah. I have this flu. Came and went to my stomach.'”

There is another very interesting part from the meeting with al-Masri in this report:

“The money he [Arafat] spent to buy the loyalty of his court, al-Masri gently suggests, could easily have paid for a functioning Palestinian state instead.

“With three hundred, four hundred million dollars we could have built Palestine in ten years. Waste, waste, waste. I flew over the West Bank in a helicopter with Arafat at the beginning of Oslo, and I told him how easy we could make five, six, seven towns here; we could absorb a lot of people here; and have the right of return for the refugees. If you have good intentions and you say you want to reach a solution, we could do it. I said, if you have money and water, it could be comparable to Israel, this piece of land.”

But if you don’t have good intentions and don’t really want to reach a solution, you can always blame Israel – as is regularly done on Al Jazeera, the Guardian, and Juan Cole’s blog…

Al Jazeera unleashes an ‘orgy of conspiratorial theorizing’

In a brilliantly titled – “Arafatuous” – and scathing commentary on Al Jazeera’s recent attempt to revive old conspiracy theories about Yassir Arafat’s death in late 2004, Hussein Ibish notes that the network’s sensationalist report prompted a predictable “orgy of conspiratorial theorizing.”

Here are a few glimpses of the orgy:

Let us remember that just a few months ago, MJ Rosenberg was a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at the progressive Media Matters Action Network (MMAN). He didn’t behave much more respectable back then. By now, he has “resigned” and apparently enjoys his new-found freedom to ignore even minimal professional or ethical constraints.

Another eager orgy-participant is the notorious blogger Richard Silverstein. Under the entirely expected headline “Did the Mossad Murder Arafat?” Silverstein writes:

“Next, we should turn to speculation about who might have been able and willing to kill the Palestinian leader. There are many who fit some of those criteria but few that fit all. The Israelis leap out in that regard. Not only does Israel have a highly developed research capability in chemical and biological warfare, its scientists and intelligence services would have the technical abilities to mount such an attack. It also has the nuclear reactor in Dimona necessary to produce the poison. In fact, the Al Jazeera article notes that two Israeli nuclear technicians are rumored to have died from accidental polonium exposure. […]

Polonium, though rare, is used in some industrial processes. So it’s possible to secure such material. Once you have it, you only have to get access to the victim through poisoning his food or some other material that he might ingest. Israel would, of course, have any number of means to gain such access, as would some Palestinians, though the latter wouldn’t have the technical ability to make, secure, or administer polonium. Israel could have had a double agent within Arafat’s entourage or it could’ve introduced the poison without any Palestinian knowing what it had done.”

It turns out that Silverstein is a real expert when it comes to speculating about Arafat’s death: as documented on IsraellyCool, in November 2004 Silverstein opined that “Arafat died of AIDS”– but amusingly, Silverstein will now denounce anyone who thinks this is a plausible theory as “pro Israel scumbags.” In an apparent attempt to substantiate this new-found view, Silverstein links to a lengthy Electronic Intifada post by Ali Abunimah who rants about how “Israel’s PR hacks revive lies that Arafat was gay and died of AIDS.” Abunimah’s post is another amusing read, because he accuses “Israel’s PR hacks” of trying “to provoke homophobic [sic] reactions and marshal this homophobia to produce hostility and revulsion at Arafat, and to deligitmize [sic] him in the eyes of an Arab audience that is presumed to always be disgusted by such behavior.”

In the world of Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada, this is presumably a wrong presumption – instead, I guess, we should all presume that the vast majority of Arabs couldn’t care less whether or not Arafat was gay…

Of course, that makes it a bit strange that Ali Abunimah gets so upset about rumors that Arafat may have been gay and died of AIDS.

By contrast, Abunimah has apparently no problem with the kind of speculation Silverstein is peddling now – after distancing himself from “pro Israel scumbags” and giving up on his AIDS theory: