hope for alan johnston?

Posted on June 15, 2007


Perhaps Hamas’ control of Gaza will yield at least one good thing — the freedom of captured BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

After a week of bitter fighting with Fatah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s forces, Hamas has gained the upper hand in Gaza. And one of the first things they have done, to their credit, is to announce that they have contacted Johnston’s kidnappers and demanded his release, according to the BBC.

Calling Mr Johnston a “guest of the Palestinian people”, a Hamas spokesman said Mr Johnston should be treated with welcome amongst the Palestinian people.

Mr Johnston went missing since the middle of March, and the Army of Islam, a Palestinian group, claims to have him, releasing a video of Mr Johnston earlier this month. In the video, Mr Johnston had said he was well-treated by his kidnappers.

The Hamas spokesman went beyond just demanding Mr Johnston’s release. He said Hamas won’t tolerate the captivity of foreign journalists.

Despite the bloodshed and power struggle, Hamas had pledged to work with President Abbas, recognizing his authority.

But the reality of the situation on the ground is more complex. Gunmen are known to be wielding the real power, not necessarily the politicians. There is no guarantee that they would follow orders from politicians.

We can only hope that Hamas will be able to enforce some form of discipline over its victorious forces in Gaza and direct them towards working to honor their pledge of freeing Johnston and ensure no more journalists are kidnapped by fringe groups.