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The Last Days of Yasser Arafat -

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Good evening. A team of engineers is

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new fleet of patrol boats after they testing the fuel system of the Navy's

were called back to port today. It's

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shower or two, and Sydney will expect late thunderstorms. Brisbane a

fine after early drizzle, while the shower or two, and Sydney will become

other capital cities should be fine.

10:30pm. Join me for the 'Late News' around

EXOTIC STRING MUSIC LIVELY MIDDLE EASTERN MUSIC Australia and Palestine For many years, I travelled between Yasser Arafat, but the Palestinian leader, had never figured greatly in my life. Then, in September 2003,

convinced that he was about to die. I woke up in the middle of the night Just a week later, to assassinate him. the Israeli government threatened that needed to be told I had a feeling this was a story to Arafat's compound in Ramallah. and I soon found myself travelling (Men speak Arabic) the compound The last time I was here in Palestinian journalists. I was training One of my former students, Muhammad, a major news agency is now working for

get an interview with Arafat. and he's offered to help me Today he's going to introduce me Nabil Abu Rudeineh. to the president's right hand man, considering the interview. I pressed hard on your issue OK, we'll see you. Looking around the compound, leader has been imprisoned here it's hard to believe the Palestinian for the past 18 months. Mukata'a, as it's known, The compound, or Israeli forces three times. has come under attack by They've blown up every building housing the president. except for the one has become a symbol of resistance. For Palestinians, the compound threats against Arafat, Ever since the latest Israeli solidarity for the man they call they've been coming to show their Abu 'Ammar. CHEERING AND CHANTING APPLAUSE feelings about Arafat I've always had mixed by the euphoria of the moment. but I can't help being swept up people and by their love for him. I'm moved by his obvious love for his to putting Palestine on the map. Arafat's devoted his entire life he's a father figure, For these people they've ever known. the only leader Arafat is a supreme survivor. For more than 40 years countless assassination attempts. he's survived many battles and he has outlived most of his comrades. Arafat's instincts have ensured and in frail health But now he's 74 years old

is taking its toll. and life in the compound to track down Nabil Abu Rudeineh. After waiting a week, I decide I catch him during his morning walk but there are other journalists with the president's right-hand man. also wanting to ingratiate themselves interview questions Nabir asks to see my to hold my breath. but tells me not interviews in recent months He says Arafat has given few by the US and Israel. since being sidelined It seems his minders are reluctant from the media to have him answer questions or from little-known filmmakers. there is anything we will be inside. We will be in touch by phone, if tomorrow to Poland. But we have a flight I'm sorry to do that. WOMAN: China! Sometimes people come from... now we can't arrange... ..Australia and until We'll wait today. We'll wait here.

here you waste your time. For nothing. If you are waiting until we find time for you. You can do something else Only ten minutes. Special for you. We can wait many hours. And Mr President would say, Ten hours. OK, they are ready. "Yes, I have ten minutes." We'll be ready. Until now, we don't arrange it.

this meeting, we do. with the President to have If we succeed to arrange it So, what's next step? time, I call you back. Next step, if we have (Woman laughs) It's very optimistic. Why are you laughing? This is what I can address... This is a situation. me rewrite my questions My friend Muhammad is helping to meet with Nabil's approval. for the interview I submitted earlier was silly. We've been told that the list They're asking us to go. 'Bye. OK, we have to rush now. of personal questions Muhammad advises me to steer clear

derailed peace process. and, instead, focus on the journalists like me who want I'm sure there are other actually express his point of view. to give him the opportunity to harmless and neutral. questions which are really Yet, they're scrutinising themselves a disservice. It's like they're doing I don't understand it. It's basically, like to go to the next stage I see it as the one who would and he shot himself in the leg. That's bizarre. How he will get to the next stage?

get new advisors? Do you think he should Well, um...

..this is Arafat, you know. He can't change one of his senior... was told to me, ..from the close circle of Arafat Two new suits. Just to change." "I bought him two suits. He refused to put them on. He does not love change. Ali Sawafta is Arafat's press secretary. The next day, I finally get a phone call from the compound telling me Arafat may be available for an interview. The soldiers look tense and they don't seem to be expecting me. He has lots of, basically, arguments and disputes with Arafat.

Mmm-hmm. Yeah, that's right, yeah. I'm surprised to see an ambulance arrive at the compound and I wonder if it's for Arafat. MOBILE PHONE RINGS Rumours begin to spread that Arafat might be sick and it doesn't take long for other journalists to appear on the scene. Hello. Yes.

REFLECTIVE STRING MUSIC The next day, I'm told that the normal schedule at the compound

has been suspended. Two days later, Arafat's personal doctor and medical specialists from Jordan announce that he was sick but now he's better. They say he had a stomach flu. Despite what his doctors are saying, there is speculation that Arafat has been poisoned. For almost a week, he's not well enough to appear in public again and I return home to Australia without an interview. It's ten months later and I've returned to Ramallah.

This time I'm determined to get an interview. It seems it's not only Arafat who's under siege now. Ramallah itself is virtually cut off by a massive wall that the Israelis say they've built for their own protection. MARCHING BAND PLAYS I've arrived on Arafat's 75th birthday

but it doesn't seem like there's much to celebrate. His own security forces have started to challenge his authority, accusing him of nepotism and corruption. But Arafat looks determined to stay in control. At first I thought these women were desperate to get a glimpse of their leader, but then I realised that they've come to plead for money. They know that Arafat controls the purse strings and they have no one else to turn to. LIVELY MIDDLE EASTERN MUSIC I've got to hand it to this woman. With her tenacity, she manages to reach Arafat without an appointment. AUDIENCE CHEERS AND WHISTLES I feel like I should take a leaf out of her book. In the days that follow Arafat's birthday, I wait hopefully for news that the president will have some time for me. I continue to turn up at the compound every time the media is invited to a photo opportunity. But it's hard to get the attention of Arafat's media watchdog, Nabil Abu Rudeineh. He seems preoccupied and not exactly pleased to see me. As the days turn into weeks, I'm struck by the change of atmosphere in the compound.

Everyone seems depressed, and Arafat looks tired and worn out. MAN MAKES SPEECH IN ARABIC He receives a constant stream of minor celebrities and well meaning types including a Spanish princess, Israeli peace activists, Ethiopian priests from Jerusalem, and the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi

who's urging a non-violent solution to the Middle East conflict. Are you busy now? Thank you for receiving us, and in the name of the Young Women Christian Association, YWCA, we thank you for receiving us in this journey of justice. At least Arafat notices me, but I'm starting to wonder whether Nabil is taking me seriously. ALARM RINGS Finally, after seven weeks of waiting I'm invited back to the compound for an interview. OK, leave it here, it's OK. It's got my batteries and stuff.

Ali, Ali, Ali... ..What's happening now? What's happening? We'll go see Mr Rudeineh, they stay here until we see you. So, will I be able to bring them in afterwards or I'm going by myself? Yes, we will... OK, well hopefully we'll call you. Please, wait for me.

(Indistinct conversation)

He said... Sometimes it is... Well, he's tired today. OK... But he said... and Ahnid said, "Can she do it in the next day or two?" We'll see, we'll see. And he said, "We'll call her and, for like, Sunday." OK. We'll see. Why did you ask me to come today? Why did Nabil ask me to come? Yeah, I know about you, Ali. But why did Nabil say for me to come today? So, why is he playing these games with me? What's... It's OK, that's enough. You lose your battery to have the interview. If you have the chance to have it.

So you're saying, "Don't call me, I'll call you." No. Call me any time, you're welcome. Don't come before I call you. You're welcome to call me any time. OK, see you. I'm sorry for what happened there. See you. I think now, after what happened last night, I think that your chances of getting an interview are really slim.

Why? Because they thought that this was your opportunity. But, Sherine, you tried your best. You worked really hard, you have exerted endless efforts,

tremendous efforts to get this interview. Everyone here was involved. Everyone who could reach Arafat was involved in making you get this interview. But, I don't know if I can say it's just bad luck or something behind the scenes was...was planned. I don't know. It's terrible. He said, "Insha'Allah, in the coming days you'll get an interview. "Insha'Allah." My good friend and neighbour Sawsan doesn't think I should lose hope. She says there is one more person I should meet. A former advisor to Arafat, Bassam Abu Sharif. Bassam used to be a famous revolutionary in his own right. In the 1970s, he helped pioneer the hijacking of aeroplanes as a way of getting attention for the Palestinian cause. This is when I left Beirut. Time Magazine described Bassam as "the face of terror", and Mossad tried to kill him. The Israelis tried to blow me up. When? When, Bassam? That was 1972.

They sent me a very thick, nice book filled with explosives. So, when I opened that I lost an eye, I lost a good part of my hearing, but I'm still alive. Years later, Bassam played a key role in convincing Arafat to recognise Israel's right to exist. He's known Arafat for more than 25 years and is one of his few real friends. He is a very ruthless person when it comes to himself... ..to his person. I remember once I bought him a coat from Paris. A military coat. You know, in Paris it was the mode at that time. So, I brought him the coat because... shivering!

He said, "Ahh! What is this?"

I said, "A coat." "But this is very luxurious." I said, "No, no. It's military type." "And you will like it "because it has additional pocket that doesn't lead to a pocket, "it leads to your pistol. "So it's open." "Really?" He looked at it as a small child, when you bring a child a small gift.

He said, "But I cannot wear it. It looks like the coat Saddam wears. "I'm not rich." I said, "Abu 'Ammar.

"This is a present from me, to you, on your birthday." You should see his small pockets. It's like a small child. He had a little compass in this small pocket, he has a little fingernail cutter in the other, he has a needle and thread in another. It's unbelievable. Like a boy scout. No? Who trained himself...

..not only to depend on himself but to have a barren life. No love, no emotions... Of course, he compensates himself by the love of the people. The cause. But never the rest. No leader on earth, no matter how dedicated, who doesn't need human care, love, emotions and warmth. I asked Bassam to put in a good word for me with Arafat,

and the following evening I returned to the compound. A few minutes after I arrive I'm told I'm on standby for an interview. (Laughs) You've devoted almost your entire life to the cause of being a symbol for the Palestinian people. What have you personally had to sacrifice in order to do this? Personally. I...It is not easy for me to speak about that. This has to be mentioned by others, not by me. I am doing all my best for my people and for their liberation movements and for our Arab nation. How does this make you feel when all of this stuff is happening,

people are dying in Gaza, and they're uprooting trees and they've built that wall and you're here in the Mukata'a unable to move? How does that feel? not my personality... No. The most important thing, my people. I am suffering but my people are suffering too much. In spite of that, we are steadfast. Not only to defend ourself but to defend our holy, sacred Christian and Muslim places. This a Terra Sancta, the Holy Land. Would you describe this as one of your worst moments, yanni,

in your historical struggles? No. We have many. And during our life... You forgot the Siege of Beirut. You're well known for your sixth sense of survival. Your instinct. What's your instinct telling you now?

(Man speaks Arabic) Sooner or later, we will have this meeting together in Jerusalem... ..the capital of our independent Palestinian states. Can I ask you one last question? Yes. How would you like to be remembered? How would you like the world to remember you? For me, it is not as would I like to be remembered, it is up to them, not to me. OK. Are you afraid of anything? Are you afraid... (Arabic translation) I am afraid only from my God. I am committed to the peace of the brave... which I signed with my partner Rabin these fanatical groups who had been killed by who are now in power in Israel. (Man speaks Arabic) had been given to me This is a gift which from one of my friends. The three Majus... The wall. where Jesus Christ had been born. Who are following the star Unbelievable. But now...

been unable to arrive to Bethlehem The three leaders of the Majus have

because of Berlin Wall. differently in your life, If you could have done anything back at and think, is there anything you look "I should have done this?" (Arabic translation) The same. Really? All the same? Yes. For the freedom of my people.

And to the celebration of our holy, And what was... sacred, holy lands. moment of the last 40 years? I just want to ask you the best The best moment for you, personally. The most important thing, sacred Christian and Muslim places. that we are here defending our holy, But what's your best memory?

This is the best moment. (Laughs) Is family in Australia now? but I have family here. Yeah, my parents are, Yes, yes. Your big family. Yeah, my parents are in Australia. Yes. of the Palestinian diaspora - Funny, the second generation they keep coming back.

Yes, yes. That's right. Because, my mother, for example, this period of her life she wanted to forget and she doesn't talk about it at all. was very difficult Because this period all of them had suffered. and for this,

Take care. Thank you very much.

Thanks a lot. OK. Alright. It's alright. But they didn't mind. How long did I stay? How long did I spend? I don't know. Maybe 20 minutes? isn't it? Twenty minutes, that's normal,

Yeah, that's OK. That's OK. There would come a time. Ali, thank you very much. just filmed the last interview I didn't know it then, but I had that Yasser Arafat would ever give. I am told Arafat has the flu Shortly after my interview,

a rumour that he has collapsed. and two weeks later I hear to put it because it seems Yeah. Yeah, of course we have telling what's going on now. all Palestinian officials are not from Jordan tomorrow. The one who's coming His own doctor. He's Ashraf al-Kurdi. means Yasser Arafat is not OK. And if he's coming here that REPORTER: Are you concerned, sir? they're a mixture of journalists, Now, most of the people here, legislators coming to see Mr Arafat, also dignitaries, Palestinian coming to check on his condition. about. His condition is widely speculated to gall stones to the flu. Everything from stomach cancer than he was yesterday because He's better this morning but today he had cereal. he wasn't able to swallow yesterday Cornflakes and milk. Please, we have two minutes. he's as good as dead. The Israelis are suggesting thinking on their part. Do you think that's wishful We have two minutes, please. "Be careful what you wish for." I would tell them, Let's going on here for the...? Shit, we dying. Calm down... According to the medical advice - Egyptian, and Tunisian doctors, the Palestinian, Jordanian, accept this medical advice President Arafat decided to

tomorrow morning and to leave for France more medical care. to be subjected to Thank you. No, this is not true. first time I hear this. Actually, this is not the with a group of doctors from Amman I remember last time when I was here took enough samples of blood there was this rumour, and we substances that may affect him to examine all the toxic and they turned out to be negative.

Arafat in 2002. This is a letter I wrote Israelis would try to poison him. When I received information that the about the important parts He had pointed with his pen "Important, immediate, by hand." and I wrote him here, in this letter of this I was warning him and what precautions he must take. from an open bottle, That he shouldn't drink

he shouldn't eat a special food, he must do this and that and so on.

I think they have done it. is a result of poisoning. I think the situation with Arafat is latent. That takes time. A very dangerous poison which breaking of the red blood cells. And it creates a continuous AMPLIFIED ANNOUNCEMENT IN ARABIC pad for the helicopters. They want to clear the landing are coming tomorrow. Two Jordanian helicopters 6:30 in the morning. So... from this compound, REPORTER: To be moved

for the last three years, where he's been virtually imprisoned to Paris for medical treatment.

It's his car. In the car, he's in the car. Yeah, this is his car. Whose car's that? CROWD WHISTLES CROWD CHANTS

REFLECTIVE GUITAR COMPOSITION since Arafat's departure, Almost a week has passed what's wrong with him and still no one seems to know or even how sick he is. to fill the vacuum. Rumours begin to circulate reports that Arafat is dead. Abu Allah denies to report Arafat is dead. Government of Monte Carlo continues prime minister know about it? Yanni, how did the Luxembourg OK, OK. his condolences? Is it true Bush really sent Yep? Alright, bye. Exactly. Bush, in a press conference, to the death of Arafat. and he was referring He was quoted by AP. HUBBUB after Arafat's departure, Finally, almost two weeks there's news from the hospital. since last night, early this morning. President Arafat's deteriorated in the head. And he has a blood haemorrhage We're... and in case the worst would happen, We believe in God in Ramallah in the Mukata'a. all arrangements will take place here Palestinian people which was... Mukata'a became the symbol of the the president's place of siege. ..the president's compound, And the... since last night. President Arafat deteriorated

(Reports in foreign language) He was talking about arrangements. New York, New York. Nassau. New York, Nassau. CROWD ROARS (Wails and cries) It must have been very tragic for him, knowing it was close to the end and he wasn't going to see a Palestinian state himself. No. Even when he was putting all the effort to raise his hand to give a kiss to his people at the door of the helicopter, he knew he was not going back. He knew very well. I know him. So, that was a farewell kiss. But that didn't change the determined look. The Palestinian state will come. OK, he will not be there, but it will come. And no one, when this date is established,

would claim an inch of credit.

He will give it all to Arafat. REFLECTIVE GUITAR PIECE Closed Captions by CSI *