Accuracy in Media

MSNBC headlined it, “Controversial Palestinian leader succumbs to unknown disease.”  The story added, “Neither doctors nor Palestinian leaders would say what killed Arafat.”  The Washington Post reported, “The doctors treating him in France never said publicly what caused the illness that led to his death.”  The New York Times reported that Arafat died “of complications from an unknown disease?” but later said that his symptoms were consistent with AIDS.

A few days earlier, the Times had reported on a “mystery” involving Arafat.  “The battle over Yasir Arafat’s legacy involves an unstated but widely acknowledged concern: He personally controlled several billion dollars, and no one else knows where it all is,” said the paper.  Well, what about the mystery of why he died.  On November 11, the Washington Times put the AIDS theory on page one.

That was publicized in Israel, where the Israel News Agency declared that, “Many doctors familiar with how Arafat had died said that he had many of the symptoms of AIDS.” It featured claims by former Bush White House speechwriter David Frum, who wrote in National Review Online that the mainstream media were covering up the fact that he had AIDS.  Frum asked, “Speaking of media bias, here’s a question you won’t hear in our big papers or on network TV: Does Yasser Arafat have AIDS?”  He cited reports by a communist defector of Arafat’s homosexual affairs, a reference to “Red Horizons” by Lt. Gen. Ion Pacepa, the former head of Romanian intelligence.

Another charge of cover-up came from former U.S. federal prosecutor John Loftus, who told ABC radio’s the John Batchelor Show that Arafat was dying of AIDS, and that the CIA had known about this for a while.  John McConnell, senior vice president of programming for ABC Radio Networks, says about Batchelor, “John is a very smart reporter.  He has tremendous sources and is thoroughly connected to the inside of the military.  He has insider info that no one else reports.”

Loftus claims to be such an insider, saying that he “once held some of the highest security clearances in the world, with special access to NATO Cosmic, CIA codeword, and Top Secret Nuclear files.”  But some of his charges are provocative.  A story posted on his website insists that the Bush family “made their fortunes from the Holocaust.”  It cites an article about George H.W. Bush’s “reported role as a CIA ‘asset'” and how his presidential campaign was allegedly connected to “a network of anti-Semites with Nazi and fascist affiliations in 1988.”

Speculation about Arafat having AIDS continued because the Palestinian Foreign Minister said that all types of cancer had been ruled out.  Palestinian, Islamic and Arab sources publicized the poisoning theory, perhaps to divert attention from the AIDS theory.  One stark fact remained: Israel wanted him dead or “removed.”  About a year ago, a senior Israeli official suggested that killing Arafat was always an option.  The Jerusalem Post agreed, stating in a September 11, 2003 editorial that, “?we must kill Yasser Arafat, because the world leaves us no alternative.”  Now, there’s another question: what’s the alternative to Arafat?

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