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September 09, 2005

Mystery Deepens II: Why Did Ha'aretz and the New York Times Reach Different Conclusions?

As we indicated in our last Snapshots entry, independent investigations of Yasir Arafat's medical reports by Ha'aretz and New York Times reached different conclusions. The Times ruled out the rumor that Arafat had AIDS while Ha'aretz continued to give it credence as one of the possible underlying causes of his death. In fact, the medical records neither rule in nor rule out AIDS as a possible cause.

Why such different conclusions? Ha'aretz correspondent Amos Harel discusses the controversy in a follow-up article today.

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.

As expected, fierce denials were sounded in Jerusalem on Thursday regarding the possibility that Israel might have poisoned Arafat. These can be taken at face value, or it might be asked what interest would it serve to confirm the accusation, were it true. Palestinian spokesmen responded with restraint to the media publicity. It was apparent that they were not going to lose sleep over the thought that Arafat might have been poisoned.

If the story has a bottom line it is this: It is doubtful that the mystery of his death will ever be solved. On the other hand, Arafat's passing came at a time convenient for all.

Arafat's Casket Leaves France

Posted by rh at September 9, 2005 09:32 AM


Well, in any case, there is definitely some sort of cover up going on. There are only a couple of possibilities. 1) The French doctors and pathologists are so rediculously stupid that they can't positively identify something as simple as AIDS, or poisoning, etc. 2) They are just covering up the facts. Again, same with his own personal physician, who claimed that he was not taking care of Arafat in last weaks (that seems kind of ironic since he's been his personal physician for decades). Either, he's so icredibly stupid that he actually believes that other common sense people, let alone other physicians, will actually trust his professionalism when he makes the claim that traces of AIDS were placed in his blood to mask up the fact that he was poisoned. Where did he get his medical degree from? The same place where the French doctors got theirs? "I've been bribed to talk out of my as* University." So, whether it was AIDS or something else, the fact that it's not clear in the medical reports proves that there is a cover-up going on.

Posted by: Olah Chadasha at September 10, 2005 03:43 PM

Both the New York Times and Ha'aretz refer to the bizarreness of the French medical report ignoring the possibility of AIDS. According to Ha'aretz:
"Prof. Gil Lugassi, president of the Israeli Society of Hematology, who read the French medical report, says that the fact that this possibility was ignored is 'simply inconceivable and very bizarre.' 'I can only assume," he says, "that if there had been an AIDS test with negative results, there would have been no problem saying so in the report.'"

According to the New York Times:

"The records make no mention of an AIDS test, an omission the experts found bizarre."

The omissions suggest some sort of cover-up.

Posted by: rh at September 10, 2005 09:29 PM

Neither the NYT nor Ha'aretz articles described in any detail what material they made available to the medical experts.

We do not know, for example, whether the newspapers provided to the experts crucial background information such as Arafat's longstanding and continuing history of homosexual activity. If neither newspaper passed along such information this would produce a huge asymmetry of knowledge since Arafat's sexual history was widely known within Israel, yet hardly known to physicians in the United States.

We also do not know whether either newspaper briefed the medical experts on the custody of the documents. The documents were provided to the Palestinian Authority by Arafat's nephew, PA official Nasser al-Kidwa, after a long delay that provided much opportunity for tampering. The Ha'aretz team obtained information that suggested tampering, most notably the assertion by Arafat's personal physician Ashraf al-Kurdi that there had been a positive AIDS test in France, yet none remained in the chart that was released. Ha'aretz revealed that all Arafat's lab tests were sent under false names, making tampering even easier.

We also do not know whether there were gaps in the medical record provided to the newspapers. Both papers described surprise among experts that no AIDS test was described. Neither paper discussed the presence or absence of testing for cryptosporidiosis, a parasitic infection commonly seen in AIDS patients that produces diarrhea such as described in Arafat. Neither discussed AIDS dementia, produced by the HIV virus itself and often difficult to treat, but the Ha'aretz article described the severe mental deterioration well before the 12 October date of gastrointestinal deterioration that has served as the focus of the poisoning hypothesis.

Ha'aretz is like a doctor who took the time to obtain a history beyond the physical examination. The NYT is like a doctor who did not do so. It is not surprising that they reached different conclusions.

Posted by: Michael at September 10, 2005 11:00 PM

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