Commentary Magazine


Topic: Al Jazeera

Is Al Jazeera Innocent in Egypt Dispute?

The New York Times carries an op-ed today raising the troubling case of Egypt’s arrest of a number of journalists affiliated with Al Jazeera. Marwan Bishara, a political analyst at Al Jazeera, writes:

The Egyptian authorities have rounded up several of our colleagues at Al Jazeera Arabic, our Middle East service, confiscated their cameras and shut down our bureau. While all except one were released, arrest warrants were also issued for 20 people who, the government says, either currently work for Al Jazeera or have done so in the past, among them several foreigners. They include three journalists from Al Jazeera English, the English-language network that also includes Al Jazeera America, who were arrested in December: Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. They have now been charged with broadcasting false reports of unrest with the intention of helping the Muslim Brotherhood destabilize Egypt. This is merely propaganda to cover up censorship and repression. Mr. Greste, our award-winning foreign correspondent, wrote from his cold cell: “How do you accurately and fairly report on Egypt’s ongoing political struggle without talking to everyone involved?”

Bishara address a number of key points, and while I cannot comment on the merits of the specific case, not having seen the Al Jazeera reports to which Egyptian authorities reacted nor the evidence the Egyptian government plans to use to back formal charges, there are no angels in this dispute. Certainly, Egyptian authorities have misused the judiciary in their increasingly paranoid drive to stifle both civil society and criticism. The United States, for example, remains deeply troubled with regard to the case of National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute employees arrested in Egypt.

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The New York Times carries an op-ed today raising the troubling case of Egypt’s arrest of a number of journalists affiliated with Al Jazeera. Marwan Bishara, a political analyst at Al Jazeera, writes:

The Egyptian authorities have rounded up several of our colleagues at Al Jazeera Arabic, our Middle East service, confiscated their cameras and shut down our bureau. While all except one were released, arrest warrants were also issued for 20 people who, the government says, either currently work for Al Jazeera or have done so in the past, among them several foreigners. They include three journalists from Al Jazeera English, the English-language network that also includes Al Jazeera America, who were arrested in December: Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. They have now been charged with broadcasting false reports of unrest with the intention of helping the Muslim Brotherhood destabilize Egypt. This is merely propaganda to cover up censorship and repression. Mr. Greste, our award-winning foreign correspondent, wrote from his cold cell: “How do you accurately and fairly report on Egypt’s ongoing political struggle without talking to everyone involved?”

Bishara address a number of key points, and while I cannot comment on the merits of the specific case, not having seen the Al Jazeera reports to which Egyptian authorities reacted nor the evidence the Egyptian government plans to use to back formal charges, there are no angels in this dispute. Certainly, Egyptian authorities have misused the judiciary in their increasingly paranoid drive to stifle both civil society and criticism. The United States, for example, remains deeply troubled with regard to the case of National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute employees arrested in Egypt.

At the same time, Al Jazeera reporters have sometimes violated basic journalistic ethics. On several occasions during the Iraq war, according to U.S. army officers, American servicemen received anonymous calls drawing them to a certain location, only to observe Al Jazeera reporters manning positions around what later turned out to be a massive booby-trap. Watching American servicemen murdered might make good ratings, but coordinating with insurgents and terrorists ahead of time certainly is not the proper role of journalists. Nor did Al Jazeera exemplify honest journalism when it threw a birthday party for Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese terrorist who had killed a four-year girl he had kidnapped by crushing her skull with a rifle butt.

There is no such thing as a legitimate target, regardless of the politics of Al Jazeera or any other media outlet. At the same time, outlets like Al Jazeera have proven that its employees are not above reproach. Just because someone carries a press card does not mean that they should enjoy immunity for behavior that may not conform to the who, what, where, why, and when of traditional journalism. The United States, for example, would certainly prosecute a Xinhua journalist if that individual moonlighted in espionage for the Chinese state.

So what to do? In such a situation, no one deserves benefit of the doubt. It behooves the Egyptian authorities to show that their accusations are warranted; if they are, then there is no reason why the individuals arrested should not be prosecuted. If Egypt is simply acting out of animus toward Al Jazeera’s home state of Qatar, the main sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood, however, then Cairo risks losing all credibility. While journalists too frequently express professional solidarity with their colleagues across countries, the only thing that is certain right now is that there are no angels in the Egyptian conflict.

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Can We Trust the New Al Jazeera?

After enriching Al Gore by a cool hundred million as part of their purchase of his dead-in-the-water Current cable channel, the rulers of Qatar are hoping to win the hearts, minds, and attention of U.S. viewers with their revamped Al Jazeera America slated to make its debut in 48 million domestic homes tomorrow afternoon. The problem for the owners of the channel is that most Americans still think of the network as al-Qaeda’s favorite propaganda source that promoted a noxious mix of vicious anti-American and anti-Israel opinion and biased news reporting that made even the most partisan American networks appear to be bastions of Olympian objectivity. How do you fix that? Easy. Convince everyone that your channel is just the opposite of what they expect. To that end, Al Jazeera has managed to coax the New York Times into writing a puff piece on their plans to rebrand themselves as being the most serious news network on television.

The Times obliged with a piece that claims the launch is the most ambitious journalistic project since the debut of Fox News because it will be a network dedicated to “fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news” along with “less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings.” It will also have a lot fewer commercials but, as the Times points out, that has more to do with Al Jazeera’s inability to sell time to advertisers. Even so, it all sounds perfect, right? Maybe. We’ll judge them on their performance rather than their rather impressive PR efforts. But there’s still one lingering problem that ought to trouble even those liberal mainstream media types who are clearly rooting for it: this is the same media company that puts out the Al Jazeera seen around the world and that remains the antithesis of what they’re selling to Americans.

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After enriching Al Gore by a cool hundred million as part of their purchase of his dead-in-the-water Current cable channel, the rulers of Qatar are hoping to win the hearts, minds, and attention of U.S. viewers with their revamped Al Jazeera America slated to make its debut in 48 million domestic homes tomorrow afternoon. The problem for the owners of the channel is that most Americans still think of the network as al-Qaeda’s favorite propaganda source that promoted a noxious mix of vicious anti-American and anti-Israel opinion and biased news reporting that made even the most partisan American networks appear to be bastions of Olympian objectivity. How do you fix that? Easy. Convince everyone that your channel is just the opposite of what they expect. To that end, Al Jazeera has managed to coax the New York Times into writing a puff piece on their plans to rebrand themselves as being the most serious news network on television.

The Times obliged with a piece that claims the launch is the most ambitious journalistic project since the debut of Fox News because it will be a network dedicated to “fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news” along with “less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings.” It will also have a lot fewer commercials but, as the Times points out, that has more to do with Al Jazeera’s inability to sell time to advertisers. Even so, it all sounds perfect, right? Maybe. We’ll judge them on their performance rather than their rather impressive PR efforts. But there’s still one lingering problem that ought to trouble even those liberal mainstream media types who are clearly rooting for it: this is the same media company that puts out the Al Jazeera seen around the world and that remains the antithesis of what they’re selling to Americans.

The latest example of the real Al Jazeera comes to us courtesy of Memri.org, the indispensable source of translations of the Arab media. Apparently, on Saturday the parent network of Al Jazeera America broadcast a rant from a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood accusing Egypt’s military leader of being a secret Jew and claiming that the new government is implementing the plan first revealed in the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery. If its entertainment division producing a Hillary Clinton biopic embarrasses NBC news, it would be interesting to see what the supposedly “unbiased” journalists of Al Jazeera America think about that.

The point here is that despite all the talk from liberal figures in the media telling us about how essential Al Jazeera is and how hopeful their American beachhead will be for the future of journalism, it remains a place that can be counted on for the sort of incitement that gave the network the bad reputation its still trying to overcome. The Americans hired to work for Al Jazeera may be well intentioned and some of their work may be valuable, just as the coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings by the mother network. But Americans are not likely to trust a broadcaster that blithely promotes this kind of hatred and bias elsewhere. Insulating their American operation from its foreign owners is not as easy as the Times would have us believe so long as it answers to the same Qatari masters with a weakness for anti-Semitism. Any channel that calls itself Al Jazeera is going to have to prove that it won’t spew the same kind of prejudice. It’s not likely that a rightly skeptical American audience will give them much of a chance.

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The Al Jazeera Liberals

The sale of Al Gore’s Current TV to Al Jazeera is apparently more than just a business deal in which the world’s most prominent critic of fossil fuels made a fortune with an oil-rich emirate. According to the New York Times editorial page, the creation of a new Al Jazeera America is a blow struck for diversity in journalism. The Times feels Time Warner Cable is wrong to drop the new channel from its broadcast lineup. The implication is that those who have expressed shock or outrage about the spectacle of a former vice president of the United States becoming not merely a business partner but an advocate for a network that is well known for its anti-American and anti-Israel bias are either narrow-minded or in some way prejudiced against Arabs and Muslims.

The idea that the general disgust about Gore’s $100 million Arab oil windfall is more evidence of American parochialism or prejudice is absurd. No one is trying to censor Al Jazeera. If there are enough American viewers who want to watch news broadcast from the perspective of the channel’s Qatari government owners, then cable providers will give it to them and they are welcome to it. But that doesn’t obligate Time Warner or any other distributor to give it valuable space on a list of available channels if there aren’t enough viewers to justify such a decision. After all, those who want to look at the world from the point of view of those who promote 9/11 truther myths and who sympathize with those who fought the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan can always watch Al Jazeera on the Internet or find other outlier niches to hold their attention.

The real issue here is not a false argument about diversity. It is instead one about what it means to be a liberal in today’s media environment. As Alana noted yesterday, Gore refused to sell his channel to conservative Glenn Beck saying that he didn’t wish to see his vanity project fall into the hands of those who disagreed with his politics. Fair enough. But the fact that Gore sees Al Jazeera as a good match for his brand of American liberalism speaks volumes about the nature of that set of beliefs.

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The sale of Al Gore’s Current TV to Al Jazeera is apparently more than just a business deal in which the world’s most prominent critic of fossil fuels made a fortune with an oil-rich emirate. According to the New York Times editorial page, the creation of a new Al Jazeera America is a blow struck for diversity in journalism. The Times feels Time Warner Cable is wrong to drop the new channel from its broadcast lineup. The implication is that those who have expressed shock or outrage about the spectacle of a former vice president of the United States becoming not merely a business partner but an advocate for a network that is well known for its anti-American and anti-Israel bias are either narrow-minded or in some way prejudiced against Arabs and Muslims.

The idea that the general disgust about Gore’s $100 million Arab oil windfall is more evidence of American parochialism or prejudice is absurd. No one is trying to censor Al Jazeera. If there are enough American viewers who want to watch news broadcast from the perspective of the channel’s Qatari government owners, then cable providers will give it to them and they are welcome to it. But that doesn’t obligate Time Warner or any other distributor to give it valuable space on a list of available channels if there aren’t enough viewers to justify such a decision. After all, those who want to look at the world from the point of view of those who promote 9/11 truther myths and who sympathize with those who fought the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan can always watch Al Jazeera on the Internet or find other outlier niches to hold their attention.

The real issue here is not a false argument about diversity. It is instead one about what it means to be a liberal in today’s media environment. As Alana noted yesterday, Gore refused to sell his channel to conservative Glenn Beck saying that he didn’t wish to see his vanity project fall into the hands of those who disagreed with his politics. Fair enough. But the fact that Gore sees Al Jazeera as a good match for his brand of American liberalism speaks volumes about the nature of that set of beliefs.

Most Americans still think of Al Jazeera as the network that was Osama bin Laden’s outlet to the world in the years after 9/11. Since then, it has earned a reputation in some quarters as the best source of news about the Arab and Muslim world, especially during the Arab Spring protests. But its perspective remains one in which the United States and Israel are routinely pilloried and where terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are depicted as freedom fighters.

I don’t worry about Al Jazeera being able to persuade most Americans to buy into this skewed view of the world. What is worrisome is that Gore and other liberals such as the editorial writers at the Times seem to think there is a connection between this perspective and contemporary American liberalism.

Though the overwhelming majority of Americans reject this point of view and are strong supporters of Israel, polls have consistently shown us that liberals and Democrats are less likely to back the Jewish state than conservatives and Republicans. At the beginning of his career Gore was seen as the leader of the next generation of Scoop Jackson Democrats. That Al Gore would never have gotten into bed with Al Jazeera. But in his current incarnation as hypocritical environmental huckster and profiteer he seems to reflect the way the left has abandoned the principles that once united Democrats and Republicans on foreign policy. While conservatives and liberals have plenty to argue about, one would have hoped that they would be united in their revulsion against the kind of bias that Al Jazeera exemplifies. If indeed there is a connection between Al Jazeera’s views and contemporary liberalism, there is a sickness on the left that ought to trouble all Americans.

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Gore Turned Down Glenn Beck for Qatar

The Wall Street Journal reports that Glenn Beck–who approached Current TV about a sale last year–was too right-wing for the network to even consider his offer. But an authoritarian-Islamist government that has criminalized homosexuality, discriminates against non-Muslims, prosecutes journalists, and has a “Not Free” rating from Freedom House? That was fine:

Before Al-Jazeera, there was Glenn Beck.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Glenn Beck’s media company, The Blaze, approached Current Media about a sale last year, but was told in the words of one source that “the legacy of who the network goes to is important to us and we are sensitive to networks not aligned with our point of view.”

The Blaze “reached out to them to buy it,” a source familiar with the talks told POLITICO. “They would have replaced Current programming with The Blaze programming, but were told on initial calls that [Current] wouldn’t sell to someone they weren’t ideologically in line with.”

In explaining the reasons for selling to Al-Jazeera, Current co-founder and CEO Joel Hyatt told the Journal that the Qatari-based broadcaster “was founded with the same goals we had for Current,” including “to give voice to those whose voices are not typically heard” and “to speak truth to power.”

Sure, Al Jazeera can “speak truth to power,” as long as the powerful are not in Qatar.

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Glenn Beck–who approached Current TV about a sale last year–was too right-wing for the network to even consider his offer. But an authoritarian-Islamist government that has criminalized homosexuality, discriminates against non-Muslims, prosecutes journalists, and has a “Not Free” rating from Freedom House? That was fine:

Before Al-Jazeera, there was Glenn Beck.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Glenn Beck’s media company, The Blaze, approached Current Media about a sale last year, but was told in the words of one source that “the legacy of who the network goes to is important to us and we are sensitive to networks not aligned with our point of view.”

The Blaze “reached out to them to buy it,” a source familiar with the talks told POLITICO. “They would have replaced Current programming with The Blaze programming, but were told on initial calls that [Current] wouldn’t sell to someone they weren’t ideologically in line with.”

In explaining the reasons for selling to Al-Jazeera, Current co-founder and CEO Joel Hyatt told the Journal that the Qatari-based broadcaster “was founded with the same goals we had for Current,” including “to give voice to those whose voices are not typically heard” and “to speak truth to power.”

Sure, Al Jazeera can “speak truth to power,” as long as the powerful are not in Qatar.

Whatever your feelings about Glenn Beck, he doesn’t advocate government censorship of the Internet or crackdowns on dissidents for “insulting” the nation’s leadership. He also isn’t funded primarily by the oil and gas industry, which Al Gore has spent his post-government career criticizing. So the fact that Qatari-owned Al Jazeera is supposedly more ideologically compatible with Current TV than Glenn Beck gives you an idea of how far off the left is from any genuine position of liberalism.

But Al Jazeera’s Qatari funding also raises other questions for Current TV. While foreign, authoritarian government-funded networks aren’t required to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, they often act as propaganda arms for their respective regimes (a prime example being the Kremlin-funded Russia Today, which now goes by the inconspicuous moniker RT). Al Jazeera is no exception, pushing an editorial line that supports the ruling emir’s interests, along with a clear anti-Western and anti-Israel slant. This isn’t something that will play well with advertisers or cable providers–Time Warner Cable dropped Current TV almost immediately after the sale was announced. If outside pressure mounts, others could follow suit. After all, it’s not as if Current TV had strong ratings to begin with.

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A Perfect Match: Al Gore and Al Jazeera

The Al Jazeera television network has become a dominant force in Middle East communications as well as an expanding influence elsewhere, but up until now it has had trouble breaking through in the United States with a little watched English channel that is not widely available. No longer. With the sale of Al Gore’s Current TV cable network to Al Jazeera, the Qatar-government financed news giant will have a chance to reach an estimated 40 million American homes. Current TV has been a colossal flop in terms of viewership and quality, but its sale will make yet another fortune for the former vice president who has become wealthy through investments in so-called “green” companies.

In yet another example of the hypocrisy of wealthy left-wingers, Gore, who will receive an estimated $100 million of the reported half-billion-dollar sale price, made sure the transaction took place by the end of 2012 so as to avoid the higher taxes that went into effect as part of President Obama’s soak-the-rich fiscal cliff ultimatum. But there’s more to this story than the way the former Democratic Party standard-bearer parlayed a vanity project into a financial windfall. Rather, it is the way he will assist the plan of Al Jazeera, which has long been rightly dismissed by the American public as a platform for Islamist and anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda, to elbow its way into the U.S. media market and compete with cable news giants like CNN and MSNBC, if not the more popular Fox News. Though, as the New York Times noted, there is little evidence that there is any real demand among mainstream viewers for an English language version of the favorite network of Al Qaeda and other Islamists, the acquisition of Current and the creation of a new Al Jazeera English channel will mean the network’s biased outlook on the Middle East and the United States will be far more widely available here than ever before.

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The Al Jazeera television network has become a dominant force in Middle East communications as well as an expanding influence elsewhere, but up until now it has had trouble breaking through in the United States with a little watched English channel that is not widely available. No longer. With the sale of Al Gore’s Current TV cable network to Al Jazeera, the Qatar-government financed news giant will have a chance to reach an estimated 40 million American homes. Current TV has been a colossal flop in terms of viewership and quality, but its sale will make yet another fortune for the former vice president who has become wealthy through investments in so-called “green” companies.

In yet another example of the hypocrisy of wealthy left-wingers, Gore, who will receive an estimated $100 million of the reported half-billion-dollar sale price, made sure the transaction took place by the end of 2012 so as to avoid the higher taxes that went into effect as part of President Obama’s soak-the-rich fiscal cliff ultimatum. But there’s more to this story than the way the former Democratic Party standard-bearer parlayed a vanity project into a financial windfall. Rather, it is the way he will assist the plan of Al Jazeera, which has long been rightly dismissed by the American public as a platform for Islamist and anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda, to elbow its way into the U.S. media market and compete with cable news giants like CNN and MSNBC, if not the more popular Fox News. Though, as the New York Times noted, there is little evidence that there is any real demand among mainstream viewers for an English language version of the favorite network of Al Qaeda and other Islamists, the acquisition of Current and the creation of a new Al Jazeera English channel will mean the network’s biased outlook on the Middle East and the United States will be far more widely available here than ever before.

Though it is hard to imagine that the new Al Jazeera will ever be anything more than a niche network with little influence on the American political discussion, the key to the success of this very ambitious scheme will be in the marketing of its new incarnation. Gore, who will stay on as part of the board of what is tentatively called Al Jazeera America, will be part of an effort to mainstream the network:

In recent weeks, Mr. Gore personally lobbied the distributors that carry Current on the importance of Al Jazeera, according to people briefed on the talks who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Distributors can sometimes wiggle out of their carriage deals when channels change hands. Most consented to the sale, but Time Warner Cable did not.

Distribution is the key, since while few people watched Gore’s station, its availability via Comcast cable and Direct TV, outlets that had refused to carry Al Jazeera English since it was founded in 2006, made it valuable. That will mean that Al Jazeera America’s broadcasts emanating from New York studios as well as its headquarters in Doha, Qatar will have the chance to be watched by a vast American audience.

Al Jazeera won praise for its extensive coverage of the Arab Spring, but as it has become clear that Islamist hegemony rather than democracy will be the legacy of those protests, its hard to make the argument that the network has much to offer Americans. Though, as the Times notes, it will provide a “less parochial” outlook on the world than Americans are used to, its frame of reference about the U.S., Israel and Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas will keep it an outlier in American debates.

It’s not clear that the oil-rich magnates of Qatar will make their money back on this deal. Nor is it likely that Al Jazeera’s news with an Islamist and anti-American and anti-Israel slant will transform the discussion of the Middle East. But it may provide a bully pulpit to voices that have heretofore been confined to the fever swamps of U.S. politics and become another beachhead into the U.S. for those seeking to heighten international isolation of the Jewish state.

As for Gore, his role as a well-paid enabler of Al Jazeera will mean that his descent from a respected Scoop Jackson Democrat to a profiteering leftist huckster will be complete.

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Those Stupid Arafat Conspiracy Theories

I honestly can’t believe we’re expected to take seriously the Al Jazeera “scoop” about Yasir Arafat being murdered. Disgraceful innuendo-filled articles of the type being written by the AP and published by the Washington Post are reporting “evidence” to the effect that Arafat might have been poisoned with Polonium 210. The proof, such as it is, comes from unusual levels of Po 210 reportedly detected on Arafat’s clothing and toothbrush by a Swiss lab in the last few months.

But given how math works, and taking into account the isotope’s 138 day half-life, that’s inane.

The minimum amount of Po 210 that’s fatal when ingested is about 50 nanograms (ng). Alexander Litvinenko, widely thought to have been poisoned with the radioactive element by the Russians in 2006, ingested around 10,000 ng, or 200 times the minimum lethal dose. That’s a tiny amount, but nonetheless there was so much Polonium in Litvinenko’s system that his sweat left a car permanently unusable and his house uninhabitable for six months. As a diagnostic matter, it was obvious to doctors he had been poisoned.

None of that was true for Arafat. Doctors couldn’t tell by looking at him whether he had been poisoned and he was not irradiating entire cars and buildings. So he would have had to ingest less Po 210 than Litvinenko. Let’s peg the amount at 5,000 ng, which is 100 times more than the fatal dose but still half of what Litvinenko ingested. As you’re about to see, the math works out in such a way that the actual amount doesn’t matter as long as it’s kept reasonable.

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I honestly can’t believe we’re expected to take seriously the Al Jazeera “scoop” about Yasir Arafat being murdered. Disgraceful innuendo-filled articles of the type being written by the AP and published by the Washington Post are reporting “evidence” to the effect that Arafat might have been poisoned with Polonium 210. The proof, such as it is, comes from unusual levels of Po 210 reportedly detected on Arafat’s clothing and toothbrush by a Swiss lab in the last few months.

But given how math works, and taking into account the isotope’s 138 day half-life, that’s inane.

The minimum amount of Po 210 that’s fatal when ingested is about 50 nanograms (ng). Alexander Litvinenko, widely thought to have been poisoned with the radioactive element by the Russians in 2006, ingested around 10,000 ng, or 200 times the minimum lethal dose. That’s a tiny amount, but nonetheless there was so much Polonium in Litvinenko’s system that his sweat left a car permanently unusable and his house uninhabitable for six months. As a diagnostic matter, it was obvious to doctors he had been poisoned.

None of that was true for Arafat. Doctors couldn’t tell by looking at him whether he had been poisoned and he was not irradiating entire cars and buildings. So he would have had to ingest less Po 210 than Litvinenko. Let’s peg the amount at 5,000 ng, which is 100 times more than the fatal dose but still half of what Litvinenko ingested. As you’re about to see, the math works out in such a way that the actual amount doesn’t matter as long as it’s kept reasonable.

After having planned and launched Intifada II and been militarily defeated, Arafat died in November 2004. The Swiss lab had his clothing for a few months. so let’s round down to 7 years as the interval between his death and the tests. That’s 2556 days (one leap year) divided by a half-life of 138 equals about 18.5 iterations. Put everything together – 5000 ng/(2^18.5) – and the result is about 0.0135 ng of Po 210 that should have been detectable on Arafat’s possessions today. That’s 0.0000135 micrograms. Four zeros of padding.

If we double the dosage to what Litvinenko ingested, the amount left over today would double to 0.0000270 micrograms. Double the dosage again – so now it would be twice as much as received by Litvinenko, who was visibly poisoned and who leaked radiation across half of London – and the amount today should be 0.0000540 micrograms. There’s just no way to get a reasonable amount of Polonium left over because the denominator, representing halving every 138 days for 7 years, overwhelms everything else.

The conspiracy mongers, however, have found a solution. They simply assert that given how much Polonium was found at the Swiss lab, whatever the math says should have been the original amount, that’s ipso facto the amount Arafat ingested. QED. As Elder of Ziyon pointed out, that amount of Po 210 contradicts the only thing we do know, which is that Arafat died slowly in a not-obviously-poisoned condition. Al Jazeera has been trying to dodge the obvious point by blandly inventing the idea we just don’t know what Polonium poisoning looks like. The dearth of knowledge will be news to the Swiss lab investigator who flatly stated that “the clinical description of Chairman Arafat’s symptoms prior to his death is not compatible with Polonium poisoning.”

This tripe is the worst anti-Israel conspiracy theory since the tourism-destroying Zionist attack sharks, and more’s the pity. I was really looking forward to following Newsweek’s suggestion that I “get smarter in 2012″ by watching Al Jazeera. Now it turns out the network would rather indulge in feverish conspiracy mongering than carry out junior high school arithmetic before running stories. One begins to really worry that Hillary Clinton was wrong about Al Jazeera’s vaunted news ethics.

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