One has to grudgingly tip the hat to what is now despairingly called the mainstream media, or MSM, and how it can cause unwelcome news simply to disappear. Case in point:
John Ward Anderson has a piece titled "Conspiracy Theories Persist on Arafat's Death" in today's Washington Post which begins with the question "What, or who, killed Yasser Arafat?" and then in 730 words discourses learnedly on the various theories about the demise of the man born as Muhammad ‘Abd ar-Ra'uf ‘Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husayni. Anderson recounts the role of Suha the wife, the French government, the rumors of poison, the Palestinian leadership's effort to get the facts out, and so on. It includes quotes like this from Hishad Ahmed, said to be a political scientist at Bir Zeit University: "If people found that Yasser Arafat was poisoned, it would be a volcano here—a big earthquake." Ahmed goes on to state that he "strongly" believes Arafat was in fact poisoned, then he speculates about the respective roles of the Israeli government and Arafat's cronies. Hussein Sheikh, the general secretary of Fatah in the West Bank is cited saying that he is "totally convinced it was an abnormal and unusual cause of death."
All this blather – yet not a single peep in Anderson's article about the really interesting question in Arafat's unnamed illness: is it AIDS? I have already quoted David Frum on this topic pointing to the symptoms being consistent with this most embarrassing disease. I can understand why the Palestinians want to brush the topic under the rug, but the Washington Post? Why does it regale its readers with nonsensical conspiracy theories and hide what is really on the minds of serious people? It's one more dereliction of duty chalked up by the MSM. (November 18, 2004)
Nov. 19, 2004 update: How interesting that the tabloids so often venture these days where the broadsheets no longer dare to go. Uri Dan reports in the New York Post that Dr. Ran Tur-Kaspa, an expert in infectious diseases at the Rabin Medical Center in Petakh Tikvah, discussed Arafat's symptoms on Israeli radio: "Yes, it might be the symptoms of AIDS."
Sep. 8, 2005 update: Amos Harel of Ha'aretz saw the confidential medical report on the causes of Arafat's death and reveals that it points to three main possibilities: poisoning, AIDS, or infection. The report lists the immediate cause of death as a massive brain hemorrhage, but is not certain as to its cause: "a discussion among a large number of medical experts... shows that it is impossible to pinpoint a cause that will explain the combination of symptoms that led to the death of the patient." The president of the Israel Hematologists Association, Prof. Gil Lugassi, read the French report, and finds the symptoms compatible with AIDS. "An infection that begins in the digestive system and deteriorates so quickly into the collapse of the clotting system is typical of AIDS.
Harel and a co-author then provided the medical report to the New York Times, which ran a story on the same report and – presto – AIDS curiously disappears. Steven Erlanger and Lawrence K. Altman inform us in no uncertain terms that their "review of the records … dispels a rumor that he [Arafat] may have died of AIDS." The fine print puts it less certainly (an unnamed Israeli infectious disease specialist said "news accounts during Arafat's illness made him strongly suspect that Arafat had AIDS. But after studying the records, he said that was improbable, given the sudden onset of the intestinal troubles"), but still the magic of the MSM has been wrought, yet again.
Sep. 8, 2005 update: Harel noted the same discrepancy I did and brings it up in an article today, "Yasser Arafat's death - why the different stories?"
How did Haaretz and The New York Times come to such different conclusions, based on the same report? A copy of the report was first obtained during research for the book, The Seventh War, written by Amos Harel and Avi Isacharoff. The copy was presented by the authors to a Times reporter who was present at the meetings with Israeli experts. The experts posited three principal causes of death: poison, infection or AIDS, with each doctor assigning a different probability to each option.
The Times, after consulting with its own medical reporters, decided to rule out almost completely the probability of poisoning or AIDS. The Israeli doctors, and Haaretz in their footsteps, thought differently.
Comment: More politely than me, Harel is making the same point: that the Times chose to bury the possibility of Arafat dying of AIDS.