Saturday, June 02, 2007

Who Abducted Alan Johnston?

BBC reporter Alan Johnston, has been seen alive for the first time on a video posted to Islamic site al-Ekhlaas, Jun. 1. Some 81 days after being abducted on his way home from work, as a Gaza correspondent for the BBC -- the only western reporter permanently based in the coastal strip. The video was apparently released by the Army of Islam, finally revealed as the abductors of Alan Johnston. For Johnston's release the video demanded, not the liberation of Palestinians or an end to the Israeli occupation, but that Britain releases its Muslim prisoners. Naming Palestinian born radical cleric Abu Qatada, held by UK authorities as a threat to national security.

The demands raise questions like, who is the army of Islam? And, Islamic terrorist groups around the world all state the liberation of Palestine as part of their rallying cry, yet a Palestinian group in Gaza does not? The Army of Islam is fighting against the Palestinian cause everyday Alan Johnston is held captive. Not only in its scaring off potential revenue from outside journalists -- badly needed in impoverished Gaza --, but in taking away Gaza's internationally respected voice. I doubt there'll be another Gaza correspondent anytime soon.

In fact, because this abduction has done the Palestinian cause so much harm, and the video presented far more questions than it answered, I dare to admit my suspicion of Israeli intelligence involvement in the abduction. I say involvement, because Israeli intelligence wouldn't need to carry out the abduction themselves, there are so many ways they could black-mail Arab-Israelis to carry out the abduction, not to mention hiring poor and ruthless Arabs from anywhere in the world and smuggling them into Gaza. Pretty wild -- let me explain...

Firstly I'll answer what my critics would hit me with -- apparently dispelling my suspicion: Palestinian government spokesman and Hamas member Ghazi Hamad saying Jun. 1, that he knew the group holding the reporter and: "I know that he is well and healthy. No-one has tried to harm him or hurt him." Hamad claimed to have received word from the group through his sources a couple of days ago. Isn't it strange that he waited till after the video to tell an anxious Britain and the world his news?

Hamad also said: "I think there are continuous efforts to release him. We hope we can do it very, very soon." And: "According to my analysis, I think it's possible to release him. I hope to make it very, very fast."

Since the abduction 81 days ago Hamas spokespersons have released many statements like the above, but still the release could be a long way off. I suggest Hamas, as the Palestinian government, a: don't want to admit the possibility of a militant group acting out-with their control and against their agenda, and b: seek to gain British and international trust by purporting to be close to the group that we all hope will free Alan Johnston alive and well -- in the hope that, if he ever is released Hamas will get the credit.

I would normally have had suspicions of Hamas' involvement in the abduction, but because of the video's demands, I'm sure that Hamas are indeed trying to secure Alan Johnston's release. What do Hamas, fighting for the liberation of Palestine, care whether or not Britain releases its Muslim prisoners? They have quite enough people's freedom to fight for already. For that matter, why would any Palestinian, with enough problems of their own to deal with, go to such lengths for anyone else's freedom but their own people as a whole?

In fact the video made no demands shared by Hamas or the Palestinian cause -- only mentioning an end to the international financial blockade and the Israeli occupation via Alan Johnston's laboured statement. This could simply suggest outside elements, possibly foreign fighters allied, or seeking allegiance to Al Qaeda. But Gaza has been almost completely sealed to outsiders since Israel withdrew its troops and settlers in 2005 and closed the borders. Even Al Qaeda claims to be fighting for the liberation of Palestine and all Muslim land.

Sherlock Holmes once said something like, when you have removed all the possibilities, whatever you are left with, however strange is the truth.

So, either the Army of Islam is a Palestinian militant group that has the capabilities to capture and hide someone as prominent as Alan Johnston somewhere as small as the Gaza strip, acting independently of all other Palestinian groups and all Palestinians, and that doesn't want the liberation of its people above all esle. Or Israeli intelligence is somehow behind the abduction, to harm the Palestinian cause, and help permanently shatter recent hopes that the Palestinian unity government combined with the Arab Peace (Saudi) Initiative might force Israel to return the land it took almost exactly 40 years ago in the six-day war. I'll let you make up your own mind.

No comments: