The core reporting in the Al Jazeera story doesn’t constitute journalistic malpractice, but the sensationalism with which it is being presented is clearly designed to reignite the rumor mill about Arafat’s supposedly mysterious death. But the burden of proof on those who would claim that the death of a sick, 75-year-old man who ended his days in miserable squalor following an exceptionally difficult life was due to anything other than natural causes — as established by his doctors at the time — is extremely high. So far, nothing, including the new Al Jazeera report, even begins to meet that burden.
A number of readers wrote me asking why I subscribe to the bizarre conspiracy theory that Israel assassinated Yasser Arafat, so I thought I’d clarify, offer an alternate opinion, and flesh out my first post.
First, I don’t think it’s completely out of the realm of possibility that Israel ‘did something’ about Arafat. They hated the guy, and rightly so. He’d waged war and unleashed terror against Israel, and had stolen millions from his own people. What wasn’t to hate? Was the peace process going to be easier without him? Likely. Does Israel have a history of similar actions? Absolutely. On that level, it’s hardly a stretch to say they may have played their hand.
On the other hand though, Ibish’s point above is obvious. This guy was old and frail. Old and frail 75-year-old men have a habit of dying. On that level, it’s hard to believe anything suspicious. Plus, Ibish’s thorough undertaking in looking deeper so much of Al Jazeera’s (very questionable) evidence is important; there is very little proof this was Israel. (But then again, they’d want you to think that, wouldn’t they?)
So: I don’t believe Al Jazeera’s story; on the balance of probabilities Ibish is likely in the right.