What Killed Arafat

The exclusive inside story of Arafat's mysterious death

What Killed Arafat In 2004 Yasser Arafat suddenly fell mysteriously ill. Doctors from around the world rushed to save him but he died within weeks and ever since it's been an unsolved case. It was convenient timing for Israel and the US who wanted him out of the way. But no investigation followed. This investigative doc made the news worldwide when it recruited forensic scientists and discovered traces of a deadly radioactive poison on his clothes. Was Arafat murdered?
Eight years after Yasser Arafat's sudden death, rumours of assassination still ring in the ears of his family and countrymen. In this exclusive and riveting follow up documentary of Arafat's exhumation, the controversy of conspiracy that was first re-ignited by Al Jazeera begins to blaze, and the cause of Arafat's death is finally revealed.

October 2012. 4 months after Al Jazeera's documentary of Suha Arafat's quest for truth was aired, and scientists pointed out the urgent need to exhume Arafat's body to recover rapidly decaying evidence. The mausoleum remains untouched, as do the questions lingering around the ex-president's death. Corners of the Palestinian Authorities resist an exhumation, fearing an autopsy would have turned "a martyrdom case into a police criminal case", as one official describes. Tawfiq Tblazeirawi, Palestinian Investigation Committee Chief, says stubbornly: "Nobody forces their demands on me". They will not be rushed.

Upon their return to Palestine, Al Jazeera are closely tailed, and the anxiety of the Authorities is unmistakeable, if not understandable. If poisoned, there is a possibility that one of Arafat's inner circle was used as a tool by the Israelis. With time ticking and pressure mounting, the Authorities finally grant permission for the exhumation in November 2012. The grave is opened and forensic experts begin analysis on samples from Arafat's body.

A year on and conflicting results are revealed. Whilst a Russian team, in peculiar circumstances, reports unusually low levels of polonium, a Swiss forensic team detect levels up to 36 times those of normal within the remains. Arafat's widow and daughter listen to the results in tears, as polonium poisoning is declared "beyond any doubt". "You revealed the crime of the century", says a teary-eyed Suha Arafat. The only question remaining is that of the enemy within: as Professor Barclay notes, "We have a smoking gun. We've just got to find out... who was holding that gun".


The Producers

Clayton Swisher, based in Doha, has covered the 2008 U.S. Presidential Elections, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. He is author of "The Truth About Camp David" (New York: Nation Books, 2004) and is a term member with the Council on Foreign Relations.

Making The Film

At the time I thought there was a great historical injustice; that there never had been a proper investigation into how a prominent world figure, within a span of thirty days, died of a mystery illness and no one had the faintest idea what it was. Of course there's a lot of rumours and speculation but there was never any solid investigation, there was no post-mortem and no one seemed to care - they wanted to pave over the whole issue because America was busy with its occupation of Iraq and, lets face it, at that point in history no one much gave a damn about Yasser Arafat; they saw him as the number one impediment to peace in the Middle East and the common world view at the time, as the French foreign minister said in our program, was that Arafat was the Devil and that if only this obstacle would be removed then peace would follow so really I think it was a historical injustice that this wasn’t done at the time and having access to his family and knowing how to approach them I thought that now that I’m involved in investigative journalism this would be something that I’d be very interested in taking on.

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