November 11, 2013

Arafat's Dirty Laundry. (Ours, Too.)

Arafat Swiss 4

Arafat Swiss 3

Arafat Swiss 2

If you read the Christopher Dickey post at the Daily Beast, you’d think that that a Lebanese spy, in cahoots with Arafat’s wife, might have been responsible for his poisoning by radioactive material. Obviously, the Israelis, especially once you move passed the Western press, are seen with the biggest bull’s-eyes. But then, though Swiss scientists appear moderately certain Arafat was irradiated, there are enough conflicting scientific opinions to stymie anything more definitive.

One thing I find interesting is Dickey’s photo editing. Within the Swiss investigative report (here on the Al Jazeera site), there are images of 64 photos of lab specimens otherwise recognized as Yassir Arafat’s personal effects. It’s what he brought with him in a bag on his trip to the American Hospital in Paris where he deteriorated and died.

Arafat Swiss 5 compass

On his Tumblr page, Dickey chooses out five images from the report to represent the story. That includes Arafat’s omnipresent keffiyeh; a pair of worry beads; lapel pins; and a compass. The selection is mildly disparaging. The lapel pins show readily accessible country flags paired goodwill-style with the Palestinian one, and the compass is explained in terms of Arafat’s kidnapping-concerns toward friends as well as foes. (As in: “where are you taking me, friend?”)

Arafat Chanel Tox Report

…To the extent Dickey also suggests Arafat played the field, by the way, I’m surprised he didn’t also include one of the three bottles of men’s perfume the infamous figure brought on this final journey (Figure’s 91, 92 or 92), especially that bottle of Chanel’s Egoiste.

Still, the saddest part of the story, one that seems doomed to resist any really answers, involves Arafat’s undergarments. That’s the leadoff photo in Dickey’s post, and this one too.  (A note on those logical and efficient Swiss, by the way. The underwear doesn’t make the scene until the 11th personal effects photo in the report. The roundup — starting here — worked its way systematically first from the bag, through the socks, gloves, hats and slippers before getting to the underwear.) Now feel free to chalk all this up to TMI, but you have to keep in mind how they best tested if Arafat had the polonium in him. Yes, it was through urine traces. Which brings us to the metaphor governing all this — the one about “airing dirty laundry.” The problem, however, is that besides Arafat’s, we don’t know who else’s is being exposed. And that makes these exhibits, not to mention the publication and the whole sordid situation, shameful for everybody.

(images: University Center of Legal Medicine forensic team, Geneva/Lausanne)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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