By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
The Palestinians alleged that Israel had poisoned their leader, Yasser Arafat, who died in a French military hospital in 2004. Eight years later, al-Jazeera news investigating team reported that a Swiss lab detected elevated traces of Polonium/210, a lethal radioactive agent on clothing said to be Arafat’s. The Polonium, according to press releases, was the substance used in 2006 to eliminate Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian spy-turned-dissident. The Palestinians drew a connection between the absence of a definitive cause of their leader’s death and the history of Israel’s use of conventional and non-conventional lethal weapons for removing leaders, activists and even ordinary Palestinians who failed to halt for routine searches. The painful history of massacres, assassinations and abuse at the hands of the Israelis lingers in the Palestinians memories.
The Palestinians as individuals and groups, leaders and ordinary people, have been dehumanized and became ‘legitimate targets’ of killing and destruction by all means available to the Israelis. The international community has been aware of their crimes but decided to ignore them, thus encouraging Israel to adopt murder as a state policy to suppress resistance and create endemic uncertainty and insecurity among the Palestinians.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict started much before 1967 or even 1948. It has been shaped by the struggle that began by the end of the nineteenth century when waves of Russian-Jews immigrants supported by rich European Jews settled in Palestine and began evicting the indigenous natives off the land they had been leasing and working for generations. The suffering reached a peak during and after the 1947-48 war (the Nakba) when ethnic cleansing and scores of massacres took place. The “Nakba” is a trauma the Palestinians continue to live with to this day.
On the eve of the November 29, 1947 UN Partition Plan Resolution, there were hundreds of Palestinian villages and four fully or partly Palestinian towns in the area earmarked for Jewish statehood by the UN. Within six months after the UN resolution, 270 of these villages and towns were cleansed. Another 210 from areas originally earmarked for Palestinian Arabs statehood were evicted.
The Jewish historian, Ilan Pappe, writes that during the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing, “Thousands of Palestinians of all backgrounds, ranks and ages were killed ruthlessly and savagely by Israeli troops.” Natan Alterman, the Israeli famous poet was disturbed when hearing about the brutal slaughtering of innocent Palestinian civilians by his people during the cleansing of villages in northern Palestine. He described the ready-to-shoot-rifle-toting Israelis disregard for human life in many poems including this short passage:
“On a jeep he crossed the street
A young man, Prince of Beasts
An old couple cowered to the wall
And with his angelic smile he called:
‘The submachine I will try’, and he did
Spreading the old man’s blood on the lid”
In 1948, the residents of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin that lay on a hill west of Jerusalem reached a non-aggression pact with the Haganah military organization, but one week later, the village and its inhabitants were doomed to be wiped out. On April 9, 1948, Jewish soldiers burst into the village, sprayed the houses with machine-guns bullets killing many of the inhabitants. The remaining villagers were then gathered in an open area and murdered in cold blood, men, women, old and young. Thirty babies were among the slaughtered, according to Ilan Pappe.
On October 29, 1948, the Palestinian village of Safsaf was overrun by an Israeli military unit and the village people were ordered to assemble in the village square. Seventy men were taken out, blindfolded, moved to a remote spot and summarily shot. The rest of the villagers were driven out toward the border with Lebanon with the Israeli troops firing shots over their heads. Israeli archival documents confirm this case according to the Israeli Professor of history in Ben-Gurion University, Benny Morris.
In the Palestinian village of Sabbarin, population 1,250, heavily armed Jewish troopers from the Irgun militant group invaded the village on May 12, 1948. According to Rashid Khalidi, the men were executed on the spot and the women and children were confined within barbed wires for few days then expelled to Umm al-Fahm town.
Count Folke Bernadotte was appointed by the UN as a mediator to create peaceful situation between Jews and Arab Palestinians when the British Mandate expired. He and his aid, Colonel Andre Serot were murdered in downtown Jerusalem by the Jewish ultranationalist Lehi “Stern” in deliberate and carefully planned plot. The assassination was planned and approved by Lehi chiefs including Yitzhak Shamir who rose to prominence and occupied the highest office in Israel when he became the head of the Likud Party and the Prime Minister twice in 1983-1984 and 1986-1992.
The Palestinians feel they are victims of ongoing cruelty consciously perpetrated against them by Israel. Israel has been carrying on with assassination of the activists the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, the colonization of the West Bank and the criminal blockade and daily attacks on Gaza.
Wadi Haddad, the Palestinian leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was poisoned with chocolates coated with undetectable poison in 1978. According to investigator reporter and author Aharon Klein, the Israeli Mossad sent the poisoned Belgian chocolate to Hddad to eliminate him. A 2010 German documentary cites Mossad’s agents confirming the assassination by the poisoned chocolate.
Fatah co-founder Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Nidal) was assassinated in his Tunisian residence by a team of Israeli frogmen in 1988. Benny Morris called the pre-meditated murder of al-Wazir as part of “Israel’s Secret War” against Palestinian leaders planned and executed by Israel’s spy trinity, the Mossad, Shin Bet and Aman supported by the Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit.
The paralyzed Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hams movement, was killed in his car on March 22, 2004 by an Israeli missile fired from a military airplane. This was not the first crime nor will it be the last. On April 17, 2004, Abdel Aziz Rantissi was killed by Israel with missiles fired from apache helicopter. Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of Hamas’ military wing leaders, was assassinated in Dubai hotel room by Israeli Mossad agents in January 2010. Dubai police chief described the crime as a spectacular ruthless hit job of the Mossad secret service. It can only happen in James Bond fictional spy movies.
In 1997, the Mossad tried and failed to assassin Khalid Mashal in the streets of Amman, Jordan. Two Mossad operatives sprayed chemical poison on Mashal’s ear, but the Mossad agents were apprehended by Jordan’s security and the Mossad mission failed this time. The attempt to commit the assassination crime provoked angry response by King Hussein of Jordan. He called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanded three things in order to release the captured Israeli operatives, a public apology for violating the sovereignty of Jordan, antidote to neutralize the poison and free from prison the spiritual leader of Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complied with King Hussein’s demands.
In its 2008 war on Gaza, “Israeli fired white phosphorus shells and dime bombs on crowded civilian residential areas.” The war on Gaza killed more than 1,400 including 440 children and 300 mothers and left 600 children wounded with thousands needing urgent psychotherapy. This military action has been described by the Red Cross, the UN human rights organizations and Amnesty International as war crimes and breaches of the Geneva Convention. The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution setting up a committee headed by South African Judge Richard Goldstone to investigate the likelihood that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed. The committee report recommended referring the report conclusions to the International Criminal Court prosecutor in The Hague if Israel fails to conduct credible investigation.
When Arafat came down with his fatal disease, he was practically a prisoner in Israel’s custody, isolated from the outside world, and many Israelis called for liquidating him. Prime Minister Arial Sharon declared Arafat as “enemy of Israel” and accused him of starting the 2000 ‘Al-Aqsa uprising’. All assassinated Palestinian activists were referred to as enemies of Israel.
The circumstantial evidence to indict Israel is very clear: If Israel has been using conventional and non-conventional weapons to kill so many Palestinians, it must have the motives and the means to kill Arafat. Should a neutral Jury or judge conclude that Israel assassinated Arafat using the radioactive material as a weapon, it will not be the first time Israel killed a Palestinian, but it will be the first time a “Dirty Bomb” weapon is used in a crime, perpetrated not by Al-Qaeda, but by a UN member government!
- Hasan Afif El-Hasan is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.