Sprung! Richard Silverstein Believed Arafat Died Of AIDS

Anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein has jumped all over the Arafat-polonium story, all but blaming Israel for being behind the arch terrorist’s death.


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.


Well before Arafat died, Sharon’s chief lieutenant, Ehud Olmert, threatened to assassinate the Palestinian, as I mentioned in my earlier quoted post. Sharon, as Haaretz noted, looked like the cat that swallowed the canary when Dan asked about killing the Palestinian. Israel was highly motivated to kill him. In addition, it had a highly adept knife fighter, Meir Dagan, leading the Mossad at the time. Such a task would’ve likely challenged his sense of mission for his agency.

If Israel did it, it would’ve made some of the following calculations before doing so: polonium would be an attractive method since it would’ve been at the time entirely unknown as a method of poisoning. This means it would be difficult to prove what killed Arafat. In the unlikely event that someone did, it would be difficult to trace back the murder material to Israel. Chances of exposure in 2004 were almost nil. Israeli intelligence also takes perverse pride in being the first to use various methods of what I call terror but which it would call protecting Israel’s interests. It would appeal to someone like Dagan to be the trailblazer in that regard, though the rest of the world might find this far less appealing.

If Israel was the culprit, it would mean that both Israeli and Russian intelligence services were experimenting and perfecting such means of targeting and eliminating their enemies. I have not heard of any such U.S. program, though it wouldn’t surprise me if there was one. Indeed, Al Jazeera refers to a U.S. study on the effects of polonium poisoning.

Might I ask a naive question: How in God’s name can any nation justify experimenting with such weapons? Let’s call this what it is: state terror. Nations, except Israel, rarely assassinate heads of state of their political enemies. To those who might argue that Arafat was not a head of state, perhaps that might be true as far as Israel is concerned. But the rest of the world recognized Arafat as the leader of the Palestinian people and a head of state in everything but name.

Remember too that Israel has pioneered the use of cyberwarfare (Flame, Stuxnet, Duqu, etc.) in its battle against Iran’s nuclear program. Where many nations have trod very carefully, Israel has charged in, eager to explore weapons that might wreak havoc on its enemies.

Israel also has a history of using poisons and biological agents against its enemies. That includes the near-assassination of Khaled Meshal in Amman in 1997 by Mossad agents who sprayed levofentanyl into his ear and the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabouh in Dubai in 2010, in which succinylcholine was injected into him, immobilizing him as he was suffocated.

To be fair, anyone believing the assassination/poisoning argument would have to argue that the artifacts tested couldn’t have been contaminated by polonium after Arafat died. But given how rare the element is, I think contamination is almost impossible.

Again, if this speculation is correct, it would mean that Israel was the first nation known to have used polonium as a lethal weapon. It would mean Israel is again a pioneer, though not in the same sense that early Zionism saw its young followers as pioneers on the land earning redemption by the sweat of their brow. This is something entirely different, and not what those early Zionist idealists had in mind as the apotheosis of their movement for Jewish self-sufficiency and self-determination.

If Israel did assassinate Arafat, along with all the other known acts of political assassination it has engaged in during its history, is it any wonder that an Israeli extremist would himself turn to such a method to rid Israel of its own head of state, Yitzhak Rabin? In other words, Rabin’s murder is a manifestation of the chickens of Israeli political violence and state terror coming home to roost.

This is a predictable response by someone so obsessed with demonizing Israel. As for those who suggest Arafat may have died of AIDS, Silverstein refers to them as “pro Israel scumbags.”

Which is fascinating, because digging back to Silverstein’s post Arafat death post in November 2004, we see he had this to say:


Why the mystery over the cause of Yasir Arafat‘s death (Secrecy by Aides and Silence by Doctors Persists, and What Killed Arafat Is Still a Mystery)? It’s rather silly actually. A woman, his reputed wife who has not even seen him for three years, controls every piece of information about the leader’s health and refuses to let anyone including his Palestinian countrymen know a thing about it. The French don’t want to touch it with a ten foot pole.

So what’s going on? Well, take a look at this interesting theory from the New York Times:

There are various possibilities about why Mr. Arafat’s inner circle would want to keep the cause of his death a secret. Perhaps he suffered from a disease that they considered embarrassing. Or perhaps the doctors who treated him during the early phases of his illness in Ramallah missed a treatable condition, letting him deteriorate to the point where it was too late to cure him once he had been moved to Paris.

So here’s my totally unsubstantiated conjecture based on what I’ve read: Arafat died of AIDS.

Think about the sham marriage to a much younger woman. Think about her living much of their marriage apart from him in the lap of European luxury. Think about this seemingly asexual man wedded to no one but his country. Think about the terrible opprobrium attached to homosexuality within Arab society. I know next to nothing firsthand about what it means to live one’s life as a closeted homosexual. But still I’d have to say that Yasir Arafat is a classic candidate for this status. While Arafat’s wasted appearance in the pictures of him boarding the French military helicopter as he left for France could be the way any dying man might look, I was reminded of the “wasting” nature of AIDS on the human body.

I’m sorry for the possibility that this post will appear ghoulish to some. But I, for one, believe that candor in these cases is better for everyone: the victim, the family and the loved ones (who, in this case, constitute the entire Palestinian people). The Palestinians have just appointed a group to travel again to France to learn more about Arafat’s death (Palestinian Inquiry Probes Arafat’s Death). Eventually, the truth will be known, hopefully sooner rather than later. Let’s wait to see whether I’m way off base or right on target.

This post is revealing, not least because it shows how Silverstein himself believed what he nows claims is a belief confined to “pro Israel scumbags.” Silverstein admits to posting “totally unsubstantiated conjecture,” which is something you will never hear him say now, despite the fact that is what he does.

Notice also how there is no mention of Arafat’s terrorist legacy. In fact, the last paragraph contains a tone of sadness over his death. Now compare this to Silverstein’s reaction to the death of former Israel PM Yitzhak Shamir.

I think it is clear who the real “scumbag” here is.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

Daily Updates

Delivered straight to Your mailbox


By signing up, you agree to our terms