Harriet Sherwood’s polonium propaganda


Tawfik Tirawi

On September 29th the Guardian published an article by Harriet Sherwood in its ‘World News’ section entitled “Yasser Arafat’s exhumation may answer questions over his death“.

The article actually has no news value whatsoever: it consists of nothing more  than unfounded speculation and rumour of the kind already dismissed by more serious news outlets such as Le Figaro and the Jerusalem Post when Al Jazeera first ‘broke’ its Arafat-Polonium poisoning story back in July. 

But what Sherwood’s non-story does do is to allow the Guardian to present its main interviewee Tawfik Tirawi with a platform for unfettered propaganda. Thus Sherwood ends her piece with the following: [emphasis added]

“In the past, Tirawi has expressed scepticism over claims that Arafat’s food or water was poisoned. But, he insists, Israel’s siege of the Muqata contributed to Arafat’s death. “Regardless of how, of the way it happened, the Israelis killed Yasser Arafat. The situation that was around him, the living conditions. But it’s not an easy task to get at the truth. There’s a chance we might never know.”

So who is Tawfik Tirawi? Sherwood describes him as:

“…the head of the Palestinian committee investigating the death and one of those who was holed up with Arafat in the Muqata under Israeli siege for more than two years..”

But that is only part of the story. In fact, Tirawi has a very rich past as one of the people behind the organization and execution of the five-year terror war against Israeli civilians known as the second Intifada (barely mentioned by Sherwood in her article) which – a full eighteen months after it began, and immediately following the murders of 29 people in the Park Hotel suicide bombing – was the reason for the IDF’s entry into Ramallah. 

During the second Intifada, Tirawi was Head of the PA’s intelligence services in the West Bank. As such, he was directly involved in the organization of terror attacks against Israeli civilians and collaborated with the internationally recognised terror organisations Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

“In the course of Operation Defensive Shield the direct and acute involvement of Tawfik Tirawi, head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, in orchestrating terrorist operation against Israel was revealed. Tirawi, who is a close confidant of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and has been with him in the Mukata’a since the IDF entered Ramallah, emerged as being directly involved in organizing attacks, providing financial aid to operatives involved in terrorist attacks and preparing them to carry out the attacks.

Tirawi’s men are also directly involved in terrorism and continue in the spirit of their commander. Thus, for example, on April 16, 2002 two explosive belts, one of them ready for use, were found in the home of Muhammad A’arj, a member of the General Intelligence Service and a resident of Kalandia refugee camp. Two suicide letters, battle vests, ammunition and red berets were also found.”

Tirawi is now a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee and as recently as last year was quoted as saying that Fatah has not abandoned armed conflict. In 2009, whilst in the role of Security Advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, he stated that “Jerusalem cannot be regained without thousands of martyrs”. 

“Tawfiq Tirawi: I am saying these things so that we understand that words are ineffective. Action is effective. Today, you have chosen to call [your course] “The Return [of the Refugees] and Jerusalem.” Believe me, brothers, whoever thinks that Israel will give us anything is deluding himself. And why would they give us anything? The Palestinians are divided, and the Arabs are weak. Any negotiations that are not based on a position of strength will not get you anything from the enemy. Indeed, why would they give us our rights as long as we are weak, divided, and dispersed?

Therefore, action [is what we need]. We do not have a position of strength on which negotiations can be based. However, as [former Israeli PM] Shamir said in 1993, if we want negotiations for the sake of negotiations, it can go on for decades.

But let me tell you, Jerusalem needs thousands of martyrs. If we live to see the day, and you become the leaders of the future, mark my words: It is impossible for Jerusalem to be restored to us without thousands of martyrs. Anyone who thinks that America will restore Jerusalem to us is mistaken. It will never restore Jerusalem to us. And if it does not give us Jerusalem, how can it possibly give us the Right of Return?

These are the two symbols that you have chosen as the title of this course. These two symbols require blood, action, efforts, resistance, and Palestinian unity.”

Such statements should, of course, be taken into account when trying to assess the end game of those intent upon rekindling the notion that Arafat was poisoned by Israel. 

“Suha Arafat said determining there had been a plot to kill her husband “will glorify more his legacy” and harden Palestinian resolve in any future negotiations with Israel.”

Tirawi’s committee is responsible for the collaboration with the Swiss laboratory which produced the information cited in the Al Jazeera report. The establishment of that ‘Investigatory Committee’ was a result of the second resolution passed at the Fatah conference in Bethlehem in 2009. The first resolution – agreed upon unanimously – stated that Israel was responsible for Arafat’s death.

One may therefore be justifiably sceptical of the impartiality of Tawfik Tirawi’s committee. 

Whatever the eventual scientific conclusions (if any) to the resurrection of the poisoning story by Al Jazeera and Suha Arafat,  one can be fairly sure of the fact that they will pale into insignificance next to the political hay which will be reaped as a consequence of Arafat’s exhumation. 

The Guardian, which recently gave an astounding display of its irresponsibility in the trigger-happy propagation of unfounded rumours of Israeli and Jewish involvement in the making of the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video, appears – regrettably –  to have learned nothing from the ensuing events.

As one bout of cross continental rumour-fueled violence finally begins to subside, did Harriet Sherwood really think there was any journalistic merit in uncritically repeating the fact-free speculations and urban myths of a man with a rich terrorist past and self-professed violent intentions for the future?  

27 comments on “Harriet Sherwood’s polonium propaganda

  1. “As one bout of cross continental rumour-fueled violence finally begins to subside, did Harriet Sherwood really think there was any journalistic merit in uncritically repeating the fact-free speculations and urban myths of a man with a rich terrorist past and self-professed violent intentions for the future?”
    Answer: No, but Harriet is a propagandist.

  2. “But let me tell you, Jerusalem needs thousands of martyrs.”

    Yes, it would require untold death and destruction for the Arabs to once again become Jerusalem’s ruling minority.

    • ‘Jerusalem needs thousands of martyrs’.

      But you won’t be one of them, will you Tawfik?

      • It is appalling, but understandable, that an air-head like Harriet Sherwood, should be quoting from one of the base propagandists and Israel haters from the Palestinian Authority.

    • Jeff Harriett has decisive eyewitness accounts like this.

      Let me quote some very exciting moments from the confession of the murderer:

      The Al-Mayadeen TV, based in Lebanon, published a video reportedly documenting the confession of a collaborator with Israel, operating in the Negev detention camp, in which he said that “Israel recruited him to poison dinner meals of late President Yasser Arafat”.

      The collaborator then went to the presidential headquarters and told the presidential guards that they work in the kitchen.

      Naturally the guards allowed an unknown person to enter into the compound and the kitchen without any futher fuss. What can I say about these guards…they didn’t belong to the unreasonably suspicious type.

      The collaborator also stated he asked one of the chefs to place the poison in Arafat’s dish (soup, rice and roasted chicken), but the cook got scared, and another cook took over and placed the poison in the rice and the soup.

      Somehow all of these cooks either were in the service of the Israelis or had some strong dislike of their boss. Maybe even they spat on his baklava before the act itself.

      Every reasonable person would say that the story is a laughable bullshit and a textbook example of a childish and extremely stupid Pallywood production. But not the Guardian not its loyal imbecile readers and especially not the chickenlady.

  3. 1) Israel has a long record of extra-judicial assassination of its opponents.

    2) Olmert admitted that assassination was being considered as one means of disposing of the Arafat problem.

    3) Independent scientists detected polonium (a substance only available to states with advanced scientific facilities) in Arafat’s personal effects.

    These facts don’t prove that Israeli agents killed Arafat but they make up a pretty good prima facie case. I’ll await the results of the investigation with interest but will respond to pieces like the above with sardonic laughter.

    • Israel has a long record of extra-judicial assassination of its opponents.

      Naturally no other states would do anything like that.

      Olmert admitted that assassination was being considered as one means of disposing of the Arafat problem.

      Naturally it was considered. Churchill considered to asassinate Hitler too.

      Independent scientists detected polonium (a substance only available to states with advanced scientific facilities) in Arafat’s personal effects.

      Big deal.These personall effects were in the keep of Suha Arafat fore more than seven years.

      These facts don’t prove that Israeli agents killed Arafat but they make up a pretty good prima facie case.

      Yes, like the well known stories about the ritual murder of Christian children etc. These facts prove nothing regarding Israeli contribution in the removal of his stinking massmurderer.
      Maybe you should consider the Syrians too. They could have had available polonium from the Russians, the Koreans, the Iranians or elsewhere and they called Arafat: the son of sixty thousand dogs and sixty thousand whores – somehow not exactly the words of eternal love..

    • We should have killed him, and years earlier. But if they had evidence that we did they would have presented them then, not now.

    • Sencar,
      That’s right, after eight years we find polonium in the laundry basket, and Hey Presto! It was the Jew’s.
      It’s and open and shut case. Clearly.

      • Either you didn’t read what I said, Daniel, or you have difficulty understanding the English language….

        • While the role of resident contrarian is always welcomed in serious online debates, it would certainly be proper, as well as a very welcome change of pace, if the people filling that position on this board were good at anything besides trying to string together half-assed conspiracy theories and being rude.

      • ….and once we have decided on who did him in, let’s have a riot! I see a clear line between the polonium and the riot. ( pyjamas optional )
        No brainer.

    • ‘Independent scientists detected polonium (a substance only available to states with advanced scientific facilities) in Arafat’s personal effects’.

      Polonium 210 has a half-life of 138 days.

      Do the maths.

    • I’ll await the results of the investigation with interest

      Very civil of you. More important is – ‘will you have an open mind?’

  4. “Regardless of how, of the way it happened, the Israelis killed Yasser Arafat.”

    Classic. “They are at fault, facts are irrelevant”.

  5. It is absolutely shameful that Harriet Sherwood’s article omits to mention Tawfik Tirawi’s terrorist credentials in her article.

    But of course, that would nullify his credibility, so she hides it. Well done CifWatch for exposing yet another example of Guardian dishonesty.

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