The hatred of Arafat had long since ceased to be rational. For many, it was a total, physical rejection, a deadly brew of hate, aversion, enmity, mistrust. In the 40 or so years after he appeared on the stage, millions upon millions of words had been written about him in Israel, but I truly believe that I have never seen a single positive word about him.
For all those years, an entire army of paid propaganda hacks conducted a relentless demonization campaign against his person. Every conceivable accusation was thrown at him. The assertion that he had AIDS, which is now so prominent in the Israeli covert propaganda effort, was invented then in order to mobilize homophobic prejudices. Needless to say, no evidence of homosexuality was ever presented. And the French doctors found no trace of AIDS.
IS THE Israeli government capable of deciding to carry out such a deed? It is an established fact that it is.
In September 1997, an Israeli hit squad was sent to Amman to assassinate Khalid Mishal, the Hamas leader. The chosen instrument was levofentanyl, a deadly poison that leaves no traces and produces effects like a heart attack. It was administered by a slight physical touch.
The act was bungled. The killers were detected by passers-by and fled into the Israeli embassy, where they were besieged. King Hussein, generally an Israeli collaborator, was furious. He threatened to hang the perpetrators unless a life-saving antidote was provided at once. The then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, caved in and sent the Chief of the Mossad to Amman with the required medicine. Mishal was saved.
Later, in 2010, another squad was sent to assassinate another Hamas operative, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel. They bungled the job, too -- though they succeeded in killing their prey by paralyzing and then suffocating him, they were filmed by the hotel cameras and their identity disclosed.
God knows how many un-bungled murders have been carried out this way.
Israel, of course, is not alone in this field. Before, a Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, was ill-advised enough to displease Vladimir Putin. He was killed by the same radioactive polonium as Arafat, but before he died an alert doctor detected the poison. Even before, a Bulgarian dissident was poisoned by a tiny pellet fired from an umbrella. One must assume that every self-respecting secret service has such-like means of murder.
WHY DIDN'T Sharon kill Arafat before? After all, the Palestinian leader was besieged for a very long time in his Ramallah compound. I myself saw Israeli soldiers a few meters away from his office.
The answer is political. The US was afraid that if Israel was seen killing the PLO chief, a hero to tens of millions around the Arab world, the region would explode against the US. George Bush the son forbade it. The answer was to do it in a way that could not be traced to Israel.
This, by the way, was quite usual for Sharon. A few weeks before his 1982 invasion of Lebanon, he told the US Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, about his plan. Haig forbade it -- unless there was a credible provocation. Lo and behold, a dastardly attempt was made on the life of the Israeli ambassador in London, the provocation was duly deemed to be intolerable and the war started.
For the same reason, the Netanyahu government now strenuously denies Israeli involvement in the assassination of Arafat. Instead of bragging about the successful operation, our powerful propaganda machine asserts that the Swiss experts are incompetent or lying (probably they are also anti-Semites), and that the conclusions are wrong. A respected Israeli professor is trotted out to declare that it is all nonsense. Even the good old story about AIDS is called out of retirement.
Sharon himself, in his endless coma, cannot react. But his old assistants, all of them seasoned liars, repeat their mendacious stories.
TO MY mind, the assassination of Arafat was a crime against Israel.
Arafat was the man who was ready to make peace and who was able to get the Palestinian people to accept it. He also laid down the terms: a Palestinian state with borders based on the Green Line, with its capital in East Jerusalem.
This is exactly what his assassins aimed to prevent.