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Israel’s Lethal History with Polonium

With news breaking in Al Jazeera this week about the possible poisoning of Yasser Arafat by polonium, I thought it worthwhile to examine an interesting line in Clayton Swisher’s report, which refers to an accident in an Israeli lab involving the material.  Through further research, I discovered that this was the first nuclear accident in Israeli history and it took the lives of a number of Israeli researchers, both immediately after the accident and even decades later.

This report by Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar is based on Michael Karpin’s book, The Bomb in the Basement: How Israel Went Nuclear and What That Means for the World:

dror sadeh

Dr. Dror Sadeh: One of earliest victims of Israeli polonium poisoning, died of cancer at age 60 after major 1957 radiation leak

According to the book, in 1957 a leak was discovered at a Weizmann Institute laboratory operated by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Traces of polonium 210 were found on the hands of Prof. Dror Sadeh, a physicist who researched radioactive materials, as well as on various objects in the professor’s home. The AEC handled the accident with deep secrecy. After a short investigation, whose results were not presented to even the workers, the lab was hermetically sealed for several months.

A month after the lab closed, a physics student died of leukemia. A few years later, Prof. Yehuda Wolfson, Sadeh’s direct supervisor, also died, and Prof. Amos de Shalit, the department’s director, died of cancer in 1969 at age 43.

When the leak was discovered, Sadeh was terribly anxious, but tests indicated he was well. But according to Karpin’s book, the tests did not include his bone marrow. Sadeh and his wife hid the facts from their family and friends until he died prematurely. The cause of death was cancer.

The Israeli authorities did not admit that the leak and the deaths were connected, but people close to Sadeh confirmed that the state took responsibility for the accident and compensated his family.

This obituary indicates Sadeh, who later became a renowned astrophysicist, proved a fundamental principle of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and was the director of the Israeli space agency, died at age 60 in 1993.

Here is another source offering more information on the cause of the leak, and the scientists contaminated, including the graduate student who died:

The first nuclear accident in Israel took place before the reactor was operational. In the years 1956-1957 scientists in the Weizmann Institute were preparing for the construction of the reactor and the production of a bomb. “Material which was supposed to seal the nuclear substance and protect it from leaking cracked and radioactive materials leaked. This was discovered late, and high reading of nuclear material was found in the laboratory and in the bodies of some of the workers. High radiation was also found in the homes of the young scientists, articles they touched and even their children’s beds. This was reported by Maariv in 2006 after a period of censorship in these matters for nearly 50 years (a report by Chen Kotz-Bar).

…Dror Sade himself wrote: “During 1956-1957 I was working in the radioactive laboratory in the Weizmann Institute. I was an employee of the Israeli Nuclear Energy Committee. As part of my work I treated a radioactive source which emitted alpha rays. This source was coated with a very thin layer of plastic material designed so that all the radiation would be directed towards the target. For a long period of time there was no monitoring of the radiation in the institute. Then one day a test was conducted on a table at the lab, and Alpha radiation well exceeding normal level was detected. Even in my home radiation was detected. The lab was sealed for some months. In my urine tests no radiation was found, but no attempt to test other organs (e.g. bone marrow) was made. One month after the lab was closed one of the physics students died from blood cancer. As far as I can remember his name was Yonathan Ramberg.

Asia Ramberg, widow of Yonathan Ramberg (the student who died of leukemia) recalled: “I remember that someone from the institute came and said that he had to go as soon as possible to the hospital.” Bamberg was a graduate student at the Weizmann Institute at the time and was the youngest faculty member in Dror Sadeh’s group.

“Yonathan was 28 at the time. He was feeling quite ill and large spots started to appear on his body. I was not even scared; I just saw the bright side of things. We went to the hospital Friday and on Saturday they told me that he was very ill. The day after that, Sunday, was our second anniversary. I picked a few flowers, and when I got to the hospital I saw Yonathan dwindle in front of my eyes. He died the same day. I was in shock. My parents collected me from the hospital like a broken egg-shell. I was helpless. I barely spoke for three years. I did not investigate what happened. Nothing.”

It makes perfect sense that Israeli intelligence, learning about both the accident and its repercussions for the health of the lab workers, would be interested in learning everything it could about polonium poisoning.  When you have a lemon, you make lemonade, right?  Clearly, Russia had a similar program because its polonium was used, likely by its intelligence agents, to poison Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

Israel operates a major facility at Ness Ziona which experiments with chemical and biological agents.  It would make sense if research was performed on polonium, it would’ve happened here.

Now that the PA has agreed to exhume Arafat’s body in Ramallah, further testing has at least a 50% chance of determining whether polonium killed him.  Testing of his body tissues could also isolate the nuclear facility from which the polonium was produced.  If Israel killed him, it would’ve been far smarter to have procured Russian polonium than to have used material from Israel’s Dimona reactor.  But if the material is from Dimona, the killers would then be exposed.

Though we can’t know for sure whether Israel did it, we can see who is creeping out of the mire to debunk Al Jazeera.  Josh Block and Lenny Ben David, both paid pro-Israel operatives (one formerly with Aipac and the second, the Israeli embassy) are circulating discredited claims that Arafat was a “sexual deviant” (Elie Leshem happily published this nonsense in The Times of Israel and justified it by falsely associating the term “pederast” with Arafat) who engaged in gay sex with his bodyguards and died of AIDS.  The AIDS claims was convincingly debunked within the Al Jazeera documentary by a specialist who tested him (as did the French hospital where he died) and found him HIV negative. The gay sex smear was peddled in a smutty book by the Romanian ex-secret police chief under Ceausescu, who defected to the west. That was good enough for the “quality journalism” represented by the Times of Israel and its crusading, truth-seeking editor, Elie Leshem. ‘Nuf said.

The Jerusalem Post quotes an “expert” falsely claiming that polonium deteriorates so quickly that no traces of it could remain after eight years.  This expert has no scientific training, and in fact has a PhD in political science and is a colonel in the IDF.  Hussein Ibish, DC neocons’ favorite Arab, writes in Foreign Policy that the Al Jazeera story is bogus because the symptoms Arafat presented at death were inconsistent with polonium poisoning.  Ibish offers no scientific support for his claims.  In ad hominem tweets calling me “raving mad,” Ibish quotes a post I wrote in 2004, two weeks after Arafat died, speculating that he died of AIDS. This eight year-old post was first dredged up by Islamophobe pro-Israel blogger, David Lange. Neither Lange nor Ibish note that five years ago I posted that Sharon likely ordered the killing. If Arafat is found to have been poisoned by Polonium, that 2007 post will have been proven correct. In the world of intellectual sham inhabited by these two, you can’t change your mind about anything. Returning to Arafat’s symptoms, at least one he exhibited, severe diarrhea, is consistent with such poisoning. Ibish, of course, doesn’t mention this. Though it is true that Litvinenko lost his hair and Arafat did not.

The fact that such figures have come out of the woodwork to protect Israel from culpability for Arafat’s death indicates there are those within Israel’s intelligence apparatus who want to obfuscate and confuse rather than shed light on these issues.

{ 62 comments… add one }
  • Carl July 7, 2012, 6:04 AM

    real digging finds gems.

  • Bob Mann July 7, 2012, 6:22 AM

    If, indeed, after the body is exhumed, it is proved conclusively that Arafat was poisoned – and by Israel – what do you think the fallout would be with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What would the consequences be?

    • Carl July 7, 2012, 7:47 AM

      maybe a more interesting question is what will be the reaction of the international community; it is one thing to kill scientists and activists. Indeed, this has become rather expected of Israel.

      It is entirely something else to kill a head-of-(quasi)state. Such a murder would confirm Israel’s reputation among the civilized, democratic nations as a rogue, criminal state.

      • Bob Mann July 7, 2012, 8:19 AM

        And what happens from there? If Israel’s reputation among the civilized, democratic nations is confirmed as being a rogue, criminal state – what action would the international community take? Are you thinking international sanctions or what?

        • Carl July 7, 2012, 9:12 AM

          obviously such a finding would add significant support to the BDS movement (‘if Israel was willing to murder Arafat…). More importantly, though, it would shift the ‘world order’ to a much higher anxiety and distrust of Israel — so patience w/ Israel’s thuggish behavior will be shorter and the US will be less willing, and find it much harder, to be a diplomatic cover for the indefensible rogue ‘Jewish’ state. At the same time, Israel will be considered in a completely unfavorable light in comparison to its (Arab spring) democratic neighbors.

          Give the long standing torture of the occupation, it would also be entirely reasonable to expect a third intifada; which, given Netanyahu’s desire to attack Iran (and the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt), could make a really bad situation really horrible (how the the US defend Israel’s actions?).

          • Davey July 7, 2012, 9:25 PM

            Yes, US State Dept. commentary on Israel’s transgressions will go from the vapid “..not helpful” to the powerful “…absolutely not helpful.”

    • yankel July 7, 2012, 9:55 AM

      Nothing significant would happen.

      Nothing significant ever happens. Israel is sufficiently shielded by US congress, where reps know too well to better be on Israel’s side — irrespective of its doing — than be hounded to (political) death by its almighty lobbying organs.

      • Davey July 7, 2012, 9:31 PM

        But such a finding would provide the occasion for breaking ranks, something I am sure some congress people are looking for, that is rather than prostituting themselves for foreign state without end. I really think that if one or two stand up, others could join and a critical mass of defectors might be reached. But then I’ve been sipping some wild Kool Aid this afternoon.

  • Fred Plester July 7, 2012, 7:30 AM

    Symptoms probably depend on where in the body the polonium ends up. And it looks as if I must repeat that the dose Litvinenko received was HUGE and wrecked practically every organ in his body, whereas a smaller (ingested) dose would probably attack the liver more than anything else.

    The accident victims, described above, probably didn’t ingest much at all: they suffered cancers mainly where they came into contact with a poorly-contained polonium source. (You can see why people think what they do about Maurice Oldfield.)

    Modern industrial alpha sources have a speck of polonium some way up a steel cylinder with one closed end, with suitable seals on the other. So even if you touch the source, your fingers aren’t getting anywhere near direct contract with the actual polonium. Because of the fairly rapid decay of polonium, lumps of it tend to turn to powder, and big lumps get hot. Coating a lump in plastic would work at the time you did it, but might not still be safe a month later.

  • Dana July 7, 2012, 10:41 AM

    Richard, if all you say is true, if the Al Jazzerah report holds, and if there’s 50% chance of detecting Po traces in Arafat’s body, the question we should be asking is – what will israel do to stop that from happening?

    No way they can take the chance – if they were ruthless enough to poison Arafat, and foolhardy enough to use material from Dimona – it is safe to assume they will remain ruthless – AND – foolhardy. What will they do? well, there are ways of preventing the PA from doing anything, right?

    I’d say, look for the PA to have a change of heart about exhuming the body. Or some other bizzare twist. If such happens – no matter what reasons are given – count on Arafat having been poisoned.

    BTW, I just now learnt that Litvinenko had, at some point, converted to Islam. What’s weird is that I don’t seem to have heard much about that at the time and I read voraciously about the incident when it took place. I never doubted it was Lugovoi who administered the poison. But, now, all of a sudden, what comes back to me is that the motives for the Russian FSA to embark on such a course of action seemed strangely unconvincing. There were other ways to off Litvinenko. Other, better poisons around, less easily detectable. less obvious. People said this was about giving a lesson to the exiles. But the diplomatic fall out was too uncomfortable to justify this revenge-and-retribution theory. maybe we should exhume the Litvinenko story? see if it still holds water?

    • Davey July 7, 2012, 9:33 PM

      I don’t get how the element is traceable to a particular source??!

      • Richard Silverstein July 7, 2012, 11:12 PM

        There are two types of polonium: naturally occurring & man-made. Man-made polonium is produced in different reactors & each has a unique signature. The polonium that killed Litvinenko was traced back to the Russian reactor that produced it.

  • dickerson3870 July 7, 2012, 1:49 PM

    RE: “In the years 1956-1957 scientists in the Weizmann Institute were preparing for the construction of the reactor and the production of a bomb… Dror Sade himself wrote: “During 1956-1957 I was working in the radioactive laboratory in the Weizmann Institute. I was an employee of the Israeli Nuclear Energy Committee. . .”

    SPEAKING OF THE WEIZMANN INSTITUTE, SEE: “Israel’s Nuclear Triggers”, by Grant Smith, Antiwar.com, 3/22/12

    [EXCERPTS] . . . In America today, open financial support for Israel’s clandestine nuclear program is becoming more brazen even as many of its supporters and lobbyists demand U.S. military attacks on Iran’s nuclear program. The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute raises millions in tax-deductible funding for its Israeli parent organization, which was found in a 1987 Pentagon-sponsored study to have developed a cutting-edge high-energy physics and hydrodynamics program “needed for nuclear bomb design.” The Weizmann Institute advanced methods for enriching uranium to weapons-grade through the use of lasers even as the United States worried that Weizmann’s networked supercomputers were being used to reduce the size of warheads. Despite public calls for an IRS review of its tax-exempt status, the American Committee plows on announcing new corporate grants, ever confident that its elite overlapping board, which has included such luminaries as AIPAC/WINEP chairman emeritus Robert Asher, will back Weizmann, ensuring that nuclear funding continues to flow.
    Perhaps trying not to be outdone, President Barack Obama announced at AIPAC’s Washington conference that he will soon take center stage in the Israeli nuclear Théâtre de l’Absurde. According to author Avner Cohen, Israeli President Shimon Peres was a key architect of Israel’s nuclear weapons program from its very beginning. In 2010, scholar Sasha Polakow-Suransky released secret documents revealing how Peres even offered to sell nuclear-tipped Jericho missiles to the foundering apartheid regime in South Africa. That is why this summer, when Obama personally awards Peres a Presidential Medal of Freedom, he’ll be conferring America’s highest civilian award to the Middle East’s most notorious nuclear proliferator.

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://original.antiwar.com/smith-grant/2012/03/21/israels-nuclear-triggers/

    P.S. So it is possible that Polonium used to poison Arafat was paid for by tax-deductible contributions from donors in the U.S. to the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute ! ! !

    • dickerson3870 July 7, 2012, 1:56 PM

      P.S. RE: “In America today, open financial support for Israel’s clandestine nuclear program is becoming more brazen. . . ~ Grant Smith (above)

      ALSO SEE: “The Real Nuclear Outlaws: How the US and Israel are Shredding the NPT”, by Carl Boggs, Counterpunch, 4/04/12

      [EXCERPTS] . . . it is the U.S. and Israel – not Iran – that stand in flagrant violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The real nuclear outlaws are located in Washington and Tel Aviv rather than in Tehran. . .
      . . . Drafted in the late 1960s, the NPT was inspired by efforts to control the spread of doomsday weapons on the world scene. It came into force in March 1970, signed by 189 states including the U.S. and the four other atomic powers. While U.S. leaders endorsed the treaty, beneath the surface they approached it with considerable ambivalence, even hostility. . . </b
      . . . Put simply, U.S. rhetorical opposition to WMD never extended to its own policies or its view of the NPT.
      The NPT called on all parties to fight proliferation while allowing for peaceful atomic development under international monitoring. Article I stated that nuclear powers agree not to assist non-nuclear countries in their nuclear programs, while Article IV affirmed the right of all NPT members to develop nuclear energy and Article VI obliged nuclear states to begin dismantling nukes in “good faith”. . .
      . . . As for Article I, the U.S. (along with France) offered substantial aid and protection to the hyper-secret Israeli nuclear-weapons program going back to the 1950s. Israel has never wanted anything to do with the NPT, fearful of any meddling into its accumulation of between 200 and 400 warheads, thinly concealed behind a façade of “ambiguity”. . .
      . . . Several U.N. resolutions calling for Israel to join the NPT, open up its nuclear facilities to inspection, and agree to a regional nuclear-free zone have been stonewalled by the U.S. and Israel. After the CIA reported that Israel had the Bomb in 1968 (fully 18 years before Mordecai Vanunu’s insider revelations), no outside visits to Israeli military sites have been allowed.
      Meanwhile, India – still a non-NPT state – has long benefitted from a massive transfer of atomic resources and technology from the U.S. . .
      . . . In his book laying out the WMD Commission recommendations, “Why Disarmament Matters” (2008), [Hans] Blix predicted imminent catastrophe in a global setting where the leading nuclear states randomly and brazenly violate the NPT. A question recurs: how can proliferation be reversed when the nuclear outlaws routinely privilege their own military ambitions over international rules and norms? By 2008 efforts to induce Israel, India, and Pakistan to submit to NPT protocols had been effectively abandoned . .

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/04/the-real-nuclear-outlaws/

  • dickerson3870 July 7, 2012, 4:36 PM

    RE: “The Jerusalem Post quotes an ‘expert’ falsely claiming that polonium deteriorates so quickly that no traces of it could remain after eight years. This expert has no scientific training, and in fact has a PhD in political science and is a colonel in the IDF. . .” ~ R.S.

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Polonium]:

    (excerpts) . . . The alpha particles emitted by polonium can be converted to neutrons using beryllium oxide, at a rate of 93 neutrons per million alpha particles.[46] Thus Po-BeO mixtures or alloys are used as a neutron source, for example in a neutron trigger or initiator for nuclear weapons[14][49] . . .
    . . . Polonium is highly dangerous and has no biological role.[14] By mass, polonium-210 is around 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. . . (the actual LD50 for 210Po is less than 1 microgram for an average adult (see below) compared with about 250 milligrams for hydrogen cyanide[53]). . .
    . . . One gram of 210Po could thus in theory poison 20 million people of whom 10 million would die. . .[A GREAT “WMD” ~ J.L.D.]

  • Bob Mann July 7, 2012, 6:37 PM

    With respect to your comment about Ibish writing that the symptoms Arafat presented at death were inconsistent with polonium poisoning without providing any scientific support for those claims, I would direct you to the statement to Reuters by Darcy Christen, the spokesman for the Swiss-based Institute of Radiophysics (the organization that found the high levels of polonium in Arafat’s belongings).

    Christen said:

    “We have never said there was Polonium poisoning. Yes, we found Polonium 210 in more elevated levels than what one might have expected, but the clinical description of Chairman Arafat’s symptoms prior to his death is not compatible with Polonium poisoning.”

    For what that is worth.

    • Richard Silverstein July 7, 2012, 8:09 PM

      Of course scientifically they cannot prove he had Po poisoning because they didn’t have his actual body. But the scientist quoted on the AJ TV show said once they did, they had at least a 50% chance of determining this with certitude. BTW, a “spokesperson” is not a scientist. I’d prefer to go with the actual director of the study interviewed in the program.

      • Bob Mann July 8, 2012, 12:30 AM

        The actual director of the study, Francois Bochud, made similar comments.

        Excerpt from CNN:

        But it’s hard to compare the cases of Arafat and Litvinenko, who was diagnosed when he was alive, Bochud said.

        Arafat’s symptoms when he died were not entirely consistent with polonium poisoning, he said.

        “For example, the bone marrow stayed in good shape until (the) death of Arafat. In other cases of polonium poisoning there is a decaying of the bone marrow,” the medical expert said. “Another point, he did not lose his hair as would be expected in the case of polonium” poisoning.

        I provide this information only because you expressed interest in finding out if there was any scientific basis for the claim about Arafat’s symptoms being inconsistent with polonium poisoning.

        Clearly, exhuming Arafat’s body and performing the appropriate tests would presumably yield significantly more information on this. Do you think that will actually end up happening?

        • Richard Silverstein July 8, 2012, 1:22 AM

          Yes, those are issues to consider. But there were other symptoms, such as diarrhea, that were entirely consistent. Also, at age 75 I have a feeling death from polonium comes much quicker & perhaps he didn’t live long enough to witness the bone marrow decay. Also, since there was no autopsy it’s hard to know for sure what the state of his body was at death. An exhumation should be much more definitive.

          • Dana July 8, 2012, 10:56 AM

            I am betting there will be no exhumation. As I said above, there are countless ways to dissuade the PA from allowing it, were the Israeli Intelligence authorities to have the slightest suspicion that something might be unearthed (ie, if Arafat was really poisoned and chances of detection are at 50% or higher). If there is no exhumation carried out, whatever reasons are given, however the PA reaches that change of heart, it’s effectively a confirmation that something was afoot.

            BTW, the scientist claim of at least 50% chance of detection is a conservative one (“at least”, can mean 80%, right?). The chance is much much higher because of the way Po gets readily absorbed into all manner of tissue, not just blood. The isotope’s signature is highly distinctive and despite a relatively short half-life there’ll be enough left even after 20 years for sensitive detection instruments we have nowadays.

            We must not forget that the PA – all it’s institutions, spokesmen and representatives – are under brutal occupation. They don’t thrive because they are not allowed to. That’s why they can’t support BDS more wholeheartedly, that’s why they couldn’t go all out for the hunger strikers, that’s why they could not bring up the statehood in the GA (where it would have passed). It’s not only their financial support that’s at stake and they are not all opportunists. They are a fig leaf israel needs, which is why they are there to stay. Abbas can be exiled at a drop of hat, for example. Would the world really care?

            I just wonder how many israeli scientists , statisticians and programmers are employed plotting how much can israel get away with and at what rate. they probably have an algorithm that predicts the reactions to any action, and another algorithm that measures the relative harm to Israeli interests, and still another that defines “harm” using all manner of parameters. I am sure they have all the variables to input into the “iran attack” program. That this did not take place yet, means that the answer still comes up with probabilities for blow-back coming up statistically unacceptable.

          • Leonard Schwartzburd July 8, 2012, 12:24 PM

            Richard wrote: “Also, at age 75 I have a feeling death from polonium comes much quicker & perhaps he didn’t live long enough to witness the bone marrow decay.” Richard, you demand scientific evidence for the findings that are inconsistent with polonium poisoning. “I have a feeling” doesn’t meet the standard you demand of others. Furthermore you claim that the French reports exclude AIDS as a cause of death. Everything I have read says the French will not release any medical reports. The 3 symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea and one more that escapes me at the moment ) were consistent with AIDS and no scientific data of symptoms or lack of symptoms inconsistent with aids have been been put forth.

            The tooth brush and pieces of clothing that have been in Arafat’s widow’s keeping could easily have been contaminated after his death and the timing of it’s release is very suspect, why now? And if his body is exhumed who will do the study, what measures will be taken to assure the veracity of the outcome, will Israeli scientists be allowed to observe the analytic process?

          • Richard Silverstein July 8, 2012, 1:28 PM

            You misunderstand. When someone wants to make a scientific claim they need evidence & need to prove their expertise. If someone wants to hazard a guess & labels it that, that’s not a problem. But the fact that a 75 yr old man is frailer & more likely to die, and more quickly, from a life threatening condition seems patently self-evident. You don’t need a medical degree to understand this.

            Please watch the Al Jazeera documentary & read the articles before wasting yr time & others here. They clearly indicate 2 separate AIDS tests were done on him & that both were negative. They also indicate an AIDS specialist who tested him also found no evidence of it. Not only is this clearly in the documentary, I’ve repeated this at least twice. I hate repeating myself. Don’t make me do it.

            There is no AIDS & never was. If you continue trying to make this false argument you won’t comment here further. Lies are not permitted in these threads. They’re permitted at the Times of Israel and other shmattehs, but not here.

            Again, the documentary makes clear that all the personal artifacts were kept in his lawyer’s safe deposit box from his death until they tests were done. Further, there simply isn’t enough polonium in the world for people to go around contaminating things with it. Not to mention how incredibly difficult it is to procure. Someone with very strong intelligence ties to a nation with a nuclear reactor would’ve had to secure the polonium (something very difficult to achieve) & get it to someone else who had some interest in proving Arafat was murdered by polonium. Sorry, but yr argument fails & miserably. I also addressed previously the issue of potential contamination & once again you’re making me repeat myself.

            As for Israeli scientists testing Arafat, yup I suggest the same radiation physicists from Ness Ziona who may’ve helped poison Arafat be the same ones to test his body. That seems deliciously & perfectly ironic.

          • Leonard Schwartzburd July 8, 2012, 2:20 PM

            Richard, Please re-read my post as you do not seem to me to be responding to what I wrote but rather something else. For example, I didn’t suggest that Israel do the analysis but rather asked who would do it and would Israel have an opportunity to observe. I didn’t say that Arafat died from AIDS but rather stated data that I have read which doesn’t seem to rule it out and might possibly rule it in. If the data is incorrect I would be happy to know that. If what I said is untrue you are correct to call me on that, though I don’t believe I have done so. Your threat to exclude me from further posting for simply questioning your assertions, and I have done so without sarcasm nor have I said anything that could be characterized as “lies,” casts significant doubt on your willingness to allow the expression of points of view contrary to yours.

            You wrote: “But the fact that a 75 yr old man is frailer & more likely to die, and more quickly, from a life threatening condition seems patently self-evident. You don’t need a medical degree to understand this.” True, but the assertion that there would not have been time for toxic radiation to have reached the bone marrow assumes unknown knowledge, e.g. when he would have first been contaminated and also the speed that it travels to the bones.

            Richard, I don’t force you to do anything by way of responding to me. I would appreciate the link to the Al Jazeera documentary you have suggested that I review, as I certainly will do so in order to have more information about your point of view.

          • Richard Silverstein July 8, 2012, 2:29 PM

            Listen to this carefully: THERE IS NO CREDIBLE DATA THAT ARAFAT DIED OF AIDS. None. If you continue to argue that such a lie should be considered credible in any way, you may be banned. Again, once something is proven to be a lie that particular argument is no longer acceptable here.

            Here’s the AJ link: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/whatkilledarafat/2012/07/20127413371805105.html

          • bar_kochba132 July 9, 2012, 7:13 AM
          • Richard Silverstein July 9, 2012, 10:35 AM

            This is yet another piece of crap article by yet another Israeli reporter seeking to debunk, and not very convincingly at that, the idea that Mossad killed Arafat. Harel didn’t even watch the TV documentary, which answered questions he claims were unanswered like where the personal artifacts were before they were tested.

        • Deïr Yassin July 8, 2012, 4:35 PM

          @ Bob
          Why don’t you quote François Bochud directly from the al-Jazeera-documentary in stead of going through CNN ? I’ve always learned that first-hand sources are more reliable, don’t you think so too ?
          Did you see the documentary, by the way ?

          • Bob Mann July 8, 2012, 7:54 PM

            It’s easier to cut and paste from an online article than to have to transcribe something from a video documentary (which I have indeed watched (at least the version that is on the Al Jazeera English YouTube Page)).

            Incidentally, are you suggesting that CNN fabricated the remarks cited above?

          • Deïr Yassin July 9, 2012, 2:06 AM

            I’m not suggestine anything, Bob. I’m just saying that a statement, or part of a statement in an article is not the same thing at that statement in context and in extenso directly from the source. But knowing you’re a meticulous person, I’m sure you verified that the CNN-excerpt was exactly what Bochud said in the al-Jazeera-documentary, and that nothing essential was left out.

          • OperationRedPill July 11, 2012, 6:10 PM

            Bob’s feigned stupidity act continues to the torment of other commentators. ;)

  • Miriam July 7, 2012, 11:18 PM

    When your article ‘Who killed Arafat’ was circulated on InfoClearingHouse the other day, I left a comment concerning the Weizmann Institute and Dror Sadeh taking a quote from Karpin’s “Bomb in the Basement” about that earliest
    Polonium210 incident. I am relieved to see that this information has being delved into with your additional research into its history.
    The FOIA docs that Grant Smith posted this week, concerning nuclear triggers & Netanyahu, along with his previous report about NUMEC’s “diversion” of hundreds of grams of plutonium by Israelis make profoundly clear that TRUTH is pounding on Israel’s door. (http://www.irmep.org/ila/numec/)
    Meanwhile, TRUTH-TELLER/Whistle-blower, Mordechai Vanunu, a singular voice of courage, who risked everything to warn the world about the danger at Dimona, still seeks his FREEDOM.
    If this doesn’t all bring to the forefront Israel’s WMDs what will? They’ve got ’em all…NBC…nuclear, biological and chemical WMD. Who is going to ‘disarm’ them?

    • Davey July 8, 2012, 1:09 AM

      As you say, it is not just the lies and corruption of truth overall, but Israel is a real physical menace with the full array of WMD and in the hands of militarists, historically the shortest route to war and national disaster. One can hope that Netanyahu and the rest of the killers there are finished by these emerging stories of assassination and nuclear theft. And, of course, the kidnapping and isolation of Vanunu rounds out the picture of the “Jewish State.”

      • Bob Mann July 8, 2012, 7:51 AM

        Why would the possibility of Arafat having been assassinated impact Netanyahu? I don’t think anyone has suggested that he had something to do with it – have they?

        • Carl July 8, 2012, 9:06 AM

          get real — in the worlds’ eyes: Netanyahu is the Jewish state of Israel and the Jewish state of Israel is implicated in the murdered of Arafat (maybe did, and maybe detectable if did); simple application of the transitive law: Netanyahu is implicated in the murder of Arafat in the worlds’ eyes.

          • Bob Mann July 8, 2012, 9:55 AM

            In the world’s eyes, Netanyahu is not himself the Jewish state of Israel. He is simply the current prime minister. If a previous government ends up being implicated in the murder of Arafat, I don’t see how that implicates the current prime minister, assuming the was not otherwise involved in some way.

          • Richard Silverstein July 8, 2012, 1:34 PM

            Bibi has ordered the assassination of other Palestinian leaders. So he has plenty of blood on his hands too.

          • Miriam July 8, 2012, 2:06 PM

            Speaking of ‘blood on his hands’….(their hands) and because much goes unreported in the US msm and because so much of the history we do read is manufactured, biased or presented ‘out of context’ –it is easy to lose track of the bloody assassination history of Israel …whether remembering assassinations like that of Lord Moyne or Count Folke Bernadotte pre partition – or since here’s a link to a list of many assassinations – though not complete (I note that Naji Salim al-Ali the brilliant political cartoonist, (creator of “Handala”) shot in the face in London by a Mossad double agent, not listed). However, there are enough names included to stun even those who approve “extra judicial” murder as acceptable “defense”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Israeli_assassinations

  • Fred Plester July 8, 2012, 4:02 AM

    The other (purely chemical) debilitating poison favoured by the SVR and FSB in recent years is dioxin.
    If they are going to test Arafat’s body, they might as well test for that as well.

  • GuiltyFeat July 8, 2012, 5:01 AM

    This is the kind of article that the internet loves. It is anti-journalism, taking one source which asks a question and using it to build supposition and “what if” into accusation and blame.

    There may well be a story here, but until the body is exhumed, examined and the results released, there is nothing to report.

    Too many ifs.

    Your readers deserve more than rumor and speculation. What else ya got?

  • free man July 8, 2012, 10:31 AM

    Marie Curie died of polonium poisoning.
    Maybe it was the Polish government who killed Arafat.

    • Richard Silverstein July 8, 2012, 1:34 PM

      Wrong as usual. Marie Curie’s daughter died of radiation poisoning, probably polonium. Not Marie Curie. She died later of cancer that may or may not have been caused by radiation poisoning. But there is no way of knowing specifically what type of radioactive material caused Marie Curie’s death.

      As for the snark, it’s isn’t remotely cute, funny, witty or anything else. Keep in up & you’ll be history.

      • free man July 9, 2012, 11:30 PM

        You are wrong as usual, but it does not stop you from attacking others as usual.
        quote from Wiki:
        1935 statue, facing the Radium Institute, Warsaw
        Curie visited Poland for the last time in the spring of 1934.[21] Only a few months later, on 4 July 1934, Curie died at the Sancellemoz Sanatorium in Passy, in Haute-Savoie, eastern France, from aplastic anemia contracted from her long-term exposure to radiation.[8] The damaging effects of ionizing radiation were not then known, and much of her work had been carried out in a shed, without the safety measures that would later be developed. She had carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket[citation needed] and stored them in her desk drawer, remarking on the faint light that the substances gave off in the dark.[43] Marie was also exposed to x-rays from unshielded equipment while serving as a radiologist in field hospitals during the war.
        Because of their levels of radioactivity, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive. They are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing.

        • Richard Silverstein July 10, 2012, 12:32 AM

          Nice try, but you got things wrong again. You said she died of polonium, not that she died of radiation. You are wrong. She may have died from polonium, but we really don’t know since she handled a number of radioactive materials, including that. But the Weizmann scientists clearly died of polonium exposure since that was what leaked & they weren’t exposed to other radioactive materials.

          I don’t dispute that she likely died of radiation.

          • Fred Plester July 10, 2012, 8:10 AM

            They were extracting radium from pitchblende (uranium ore). Risks involved include the radium, obviously, and radon gas (about which they knew nothing). They might have encountered some polonium along the way, but tons of uranium would need to be processed to isolate a gramme of polonium, (more or less the same story with the radium they were actually trying to obtain.)

            It’s very hard to say, as Richard explains above, but if you don’t understand about radon gas and you’re processing a lot of pitchblende, you’re going to get quite a dose. However, it’s not intensely radioactive and doesn’t chemically bind to anything to keep it in the body.

            The most likely suspect is the radium itself, because that’s what they were experimenting with, long-term, once all the processing was done, and there’s a radiation hazard from it even when it’s in a container that would shield an experimenter from any radiological hazard from polonium. The UK MoD has, so far, managed to create a worse radiological hazard getting rid of old flight instruments with radium-based luminous dials, than it has disposing of old submarine reactors. The most dangerous thing about radium, is that people don’t think it is dangerous.

            BTW: Both ladies took immense risks with their own lives in order to advance human knowledge and, particularly, medicine. They deserve considerably more respect than they get in the comment, above.

  • Carl July 8, 2012, 11:08 AM

    bob mann, you are wrong. Netanyahu is a single state zionist, just as every leader of Israel has and always will be a single state zionist; zionism is one and the same thing as a Jewish state. If the decision was made to kill Arafat, the decision was made by the prime minister of Israel, a zionist. Thus, if Arafat was murdered and Israel is the source; then the prime minister of Israel, a zionist, ordered the killing for the purpose of zionism. Thus, Netanyahu, a zionist prime minister of Israel, is implicated just as Israel is implicated. Get real.

  • Leonard Schwartzburd July 8, 2012, 5:25 PM

    Please excuse that I apparently put my last post out of sequence. I’ve copied and pasted it below for the sake of continuity.

    Richard, thank you for the link I watched the documentary.

    To be clear, I have not asserted that Arafat died of AIDS, I do not know what he died of. With regard to the documentry, in my opinion, the assumption that everything in it can be supported by “fact” can’t be supported. The only conclusion I can arrive at is that no conclusions can be arrived at to date regarding the cause of Arafat’s death.

    There is something that’s difficult for me to understand, i.e., why so many of the doctors with first hand knowledge seem unwilling or as the documentary says “seem afraid” to comment. Don’t you find interesting the comment by several Arab doctors that the issue is “political” and not medical. I don’t think it is Israel they would be afraid of. True, Israel has used assassination as a weapon in the war with some of those actively working to destroy her, but never against a head of state (Arafat being inconclusive on a number of grounds so far,) and certainly not because of what someone has said. At the time of his death his wife was saying that it was his own associates who were trying to get rid of him and usurp his position. Regardless of how or why he died it seems to me that there is plenty to cast suspicion in several directions as to those who wanted him dead. Richard, it seems to me that the only intellectually honest thing to do is to withhold judgement and keep an open mind. In the service of intellectual honesty, after watching the documentary I do believe his wife truly grieved him and wants to know the truth, as do I.

    • Richard Silverstein July 9, 2012, 12:23 AM

      Hopefully, we’ll know soon enough if the body is exhumed & tested. I hope Dana is wrong and the PA is not deterred in doing this. It would be a shame if that were the case.

      • Dana July 11, 2012, 8:46 PM

        For the record, I hope I am wrong too.

  • Davey July 8, 2012, 5:57 PM

    Schwartzburd’s references to AIDS, his tactful agnosticism, amounts to a reiteration of the AIDS libel, no doubt a product of Israeli intelligence in the first place. His speculation about the reticent doctors is intended to enhance the libel. Likewise, the low key admission that Israel uses targeted assassinations (worldwide, btw) as a political tool against those who “seek to destroy her (Israel)” is a spurious sort of poor man’s rationalization of Israel’s use of assassination (again, worldwide) and a rationalization of exception ism just pulled off “in passing.” Indeed, the picayune style reminds me of others shuffling about on this blog. The cover is very good, but it is not impenetrable. It also reminds me that there are a lot of good ways to be wicked.

    • Leonard Schwartzburd July 9, 2012, 10:18 AM

      Davey, you wrote:
      “…no doubt a product of Israeli intelligence in the first place.” “no doubt” How interesting that you have such “knowledge.” Davy, don’t you subscribe to the principle, “Innocent until proven guilty.” Or perhaps Israel is to be judged by a different standard than any other nation, i.e. “guilty until proven innocent.” What’s going on with you Davy? Is it a thinly veiled something else that you are so certain, have no doubt of Israeli perfidy? Where is your attitude and energy towards Syria and Iran? Given the the behavior of the Syrians, the Libyans, the regimes in Iraq and the Iranians towards their own people, what do you think the victors would do to my people. f Israel were to be defeated what do you think would happen to my people. Davey, don’t you believe in the right to self-defence for Jews? And when there is blind and self-rightous and chronically bitter criticism of Israel in the face of so much blatant mass murder going on by Israel’s neighbors and others in the region, the veil is not successful at hiding something that is under that surface. Oh yes, many cry that the charge of anti-Semitism is not a legitimate defense against such a lack of doubt in the accusers who chronically condemn Israel. Davy, do you doubt that there is a lot of anti-Semitism in the world? Do you have no doubt that you have been infected by it? It’s one thing to criticize policies, (something I and most Israeli’s do) even from a far place where one isn’t having to fight for the defense of one’s life, and another to live with the sword over one’s head. And being a Jew is no defense against anti-Semitism. Have you ever heard of identifying with the aggressor?

      • Richard Silverstein July 9, 2012, 10:27 AM

        Read the comment rules. Your thinly veiled racist diatribe is not only objectionable, but off topic. Arguing that Arabs are blood thirsty Jew haters is vile and has nothing directly to do with the topic of this post. Stay on topic & respect the rules.

        • Leonard Schwartzburd July 9, 2012, 2:08 PM

          Richard you have an unfortunate tendency to twist my words. Where do you get that I said or think that Arabs qua Arabs are blood thirsty Jew haters? And I know that you know Iranians are not Arabs. How can anyone deny that there have been and are regimes in the Middle East, and also not a few individuals who slaughter their own people and do indeed want to kill Jews and destroy Israel. It appears that in this forum sauce for the goose in the form of some who appear to be regulars, doesn’t apply to the gander in the form of those who object to vile slander of Israel. “Vile” is an adjective you introduced to the conversation. I think I am raising valid questions of what accounts for someone who has “no doubt” about Israeli perfiidy and posted as fact that Israeli intrelligence poisoned Arafat when it hasn’t even been determined that he was poisned.

          I wonder if you will post this.

          • Davey July 9, 2012, 4:37 PM

            The charge of “anti-Semitism” is the last redoubt of the right wing pro-Israel lot: When all else, including facts, fail, there is always the weapon of last resort, i.e. that the antagonist is a disguised “anti-Semite.” An analogous move — let’s be clear here — would be for me to throw up my hands in exasperation and claim that Schwartzburd is just another Davey hater, weened on hatred of everything “Davey” from the cradle on and, of course, I wouldn’t agree with him, being a damn “Davey!” It is the same except that “Daveys” are very well-defined and “Jews” are not. That’s pretty much what Schwartzburd is doing here.

          • Richard Silverstein July 9, 2012, 8:36 PM

            You’re now moderated. You clearly are unable to understand how your anti-Arab rants are racist. Since you have regurgitated them once again after I told you anti-Arab (or anti-Muslim) racism is not permitted here, you’ve lost your first set of comment privileges. If you decide to read & absorb the rules, you will be unmoderated. But not until I feel sure you understand what you can and cannot say.

            You dare to single out Arabs as mass murderers when my own country has killed hundreds of times more civilians than any Arab regime or all of them put together. Add to that mass murder in Rwanda, Kosovo, Croatia, Cambodia & countless other places (let’s not forget the Holocaust) & you think the Arabs are specially deserving of being singled out as slaughterers of human beings? Puh-leeze.

            The notion that anyone wants to destroy Israel is a figment of your overactive imagination. And any Arab leader dumb enough to speak in these terms has been goaded by genocidal rhetoric mouthed by Israel’s own rulers & generals.

            You are not raising valid questions. You are expressing your fear and ignorance & insulting all who read this blog who are halfway intelligent, but especially the Palestinian or Arab readers.

      • Deïr Yassin July 9, 2012, 1:21 PM

        Directly from the Hasbara Handbook for Beginners ! Leonard Schwartzbund is the real thing. He starts out politely, thinking that his hasbara-light is just sipped up with spoons, and then after two-three more comments, the veil is falling:
        I love this one to Davey :
        “Do you doubt that there is a lot of anti-semitism in the world ? Do you have no doubt that you have been infected by it ?” [He means just like “Arafat was infected by AIDS” ?]

        @ Davey. I guess you’ve just officially been declared member of the selective club of self-hating Jews :-D Good news, you’re in good company, and you’re not going to find Leonard Schwartzburd around in the lounge, he’s a member of “Self-Righteous Jews”, a far less selective club.

        • Davey July 9, 2012, 2:00 PM

          For a moment I thought Schwartzburd was tagging me a “shelf-hating Jew” and wondered why anyone would feel so strongly about, say, bookshelves or kitchen shelves. But I get it now: I’m in the club, another Jew who doesn’t “get it,” doesn’t get the sanctimonious hypocrisy and paranoia which does infect Israel and its fellow travelers. I am surprised however that Leonard pulls out the anti-Semitism spiel which is just so vulgar and I thought he was more articulate and smarter.

          For Leonard: Israel purports to represent world Jewry (which it does not.) As a Jew then I have an interest and I have standing to take shots at Israel and its right wing government. Certainly, there is injustice across the globe and I do my bit to stay involved as possible in all of these, but Israel ‘s policies and practices present the longest standing injustice of all. You rhetorically ask what would happen to the 6 million Jews of Israel (apparently non Jewish Israelis would be ok) if Israel were to perchance lose a war. First, Israel has lost several “wars of choice” and is still standing. Secondly, you might ask instead what would happen if Israel recognized the legitimate rights of a dispossessed people and undertook meaningful reparations and peace. .If a Jewish State is a politically sound idea, then a White Anglo-Saxon State (the US perhaps!) is also warranted. Yet, Jews are not second class citizens in the originally very WASPish US.

          Or did he really mean “shelf-hating?”

  • lysias July 9, 2012, 1:41 PM

    Ion Mihai Pacepa, that former head of Romanian intelligence who defected to the West, apparently has also claimed that the Soviet Union was behind the assassination of JFK.

    In a 2006 article, Pacepa describes a conversation he had with Nicolae Ceauşescu, who told him about “ten international leaders the Kremlin killed or tried to kill”: László Rajk and Imre Nagy from Hungary; Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu and Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej from Romania; Rudolf Slánský and Jan Masaryk from Czechoslovakia; Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran; Palmiro Togliatti from Italy; US President John F. Kennedy; and CCP Chairman Mao Zedong. Pacepa provides some additional details, such as an alleged plot to kill Mao Zedong with the help of Lin Biao organized by the KGB.[6]

    Pacepa said that “among the leaders of Moscow’s satellite intelligence services there was unanimous agreement that the KGB had been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy”, and that KGB fingerprints are all over Lee Harvey Oswald and his killer Jack Ruby.[6][8] Pacepa has since had a book published on the topic, “Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination,” in which he asserts that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev ordered Kennedy’s assassination. Khrushchev is said to have annulled the plan, but Soviet agents were unable to reach Oswald before Khrushchev’s annulment order could be executed.

    According to author Joseph Goulden in The Washington Times, Pacepa’s belated account “rests rather flimsily on circumstantial evidence and supposition.”[9] In a review of Pacepa’s book published in Human Events, Michael Ledeen, former adviser for terrorism to President Reagan, writes: “A new book from General Ion Mihai Pacepa is cause for celebration, because he is among a tiny handful of people who know a lot about the intelligence services of the Soviet Empire, and because he writes about it with rare lucidity, always with an eye to helping us understand our world. His first book, ‘Red Horizons,’is indubitably the most brilliant portrait of a Communist regime I’ve ever read. ‘Programmed to Kill’ is equally fascinating. Pacepa painstakingly takes us through the documentary evidence, including invaluable material on Soviet bloc cyphers that throws new light on Oswald’s letters to KGB officers in Washington and Mexico City. … No novelist could have written a more exciting story, made all the more compelling because of Pacepa’s first-hand involvement in the Russians’ efforts to hide their Oswald connection.”

  • Leonard Schwartzburd July 9, 2012, 9:47 PM

    I figured that a list, or whatever you are, dedicated to bashing Israel wouldn’t be able to deal with me and resort to name calling. How can I be a racist for my views on Arabs and Iranians when neither is a race. Richard you are intellectually a crook. so go moderate yourself.

    • Richard Silverstein July 9, 2012, 10:14 PM

      Pathetic, truly pathetic. You don’t even argue you’re not a racist because the substance of your views aren’t racist. You weasel out of it by claiming Arabs & Iranians aren’t a race. I hope someone at Hasbara Central keeps a record of this failed attempt for training purposes.

  • OperationRedPill July 10, 2012, 7:04 AM

    Uri Avnery knows what’s up.

  • aasdf December 13, 2012, 4:25 PM

    the ex-kgb guy was working for MI6 — reported today on BBC.

    did israel kill him? or provide the polonium for doing so?

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