He faked it.
France 2 TV journalist Charles Enderlin told a small audience at Harvard’s Center for European Studies today that Yasser Arafat had faked his blood donation to the victims of the September 11th attacks. Enderlin said the event had been staged for the media to counteract the embarrassing television images of Palestinians celebrating in the streets after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
The blood donation story made headlines around the world. It was reported by esteemed news agencies like the BBC, and photographs of Arafat lying with an outstretched arm ran on many front pages. But the whole scene was staged, Enderlin said. Arafat didn’t like needles, and so the doctor put a needle near his arm and agitated a bag of blood. The reporters took the requisite photographs.
I've been reading H.L. Mencken's "Days" memoirs of late (HAPPY DAYS, NEWSPAPER DAYS, and HEATHEN DAYS, all of them wonderful), and his accounts of the utter insanity of journalism in late 19th and early 20th century Baltimore, the way reporters covered for or invented just-less-than-libelous versions of politicians' peccadillos, depending on the leanings of editorial. Mencken himself cheerfully admitted to fabricating stories. It's different now, of course: higher standards, service to truth, and all that; the press tells us they're professional, and they certainly wouldn't lie. But can you imagine what would happen if a modern-day American politician tried something like this? The press simply would not cooperate: he'd be exposed on the nightly news, than mocked for weeks. For Arafat, though, international journalism was happy to stretch the truth. (In all fairness to the old terrorist, he was reportedly HIV-positive, and so really shouldn't have been donating blood in any event.)
I wonder who took those pictures, and what they're working on now. And who they're stretching the truth for.