Friday, June 01, 2007

Flicker of hope for BBC's Johnston?

This morning, a videotape of Alan Johnston, the BBC's missing-in-action Gaza correspondent, was posted on an Arab website, al-Ekhlaas. Click here to view it. He said he'd been well fed, treated without violence and then called for the lifting of sanctions against the Palestinian Authority. This tape is the first proof of life, post-kidnap, but there's no indication when it was recorded or whether Johnston, who has been held hostage since March 12th, still is ok. The BBC is cautiously optimistic and continues to work towards his freedom. The Army of Islam (Jaish al-Islam) posted the footage on the internet, according to wire services. They were the same group that released images of Johnston's identity card earlier this month, shortly after a renegade group claimed the captive was dead.

Earlier, heated words on the risks of reporting in the Middle East and pandering to terrorists were exchanged between Bret Stephens, a Wall Street Journal commentator and former editor of the Jerusalem Post, and Fran Unsworth of the BBC. Hat tip to Tom Gross, media analyst, for highlighting this rift. Stephens' column, which suggested that Johnston tilts toward the pro-Fatah camp and that his employers placed him in jeopardy because they felt the BBC had "political impunity" and special access inside the Gaza strip, raised hackles. It was branded as "scurrilous" and "snide". When Unsworth criticised a lack of sympathy and drew a comparison with the plight of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded in Karachi by Al Qaeda sword-bearers, this was interpreted as a "cheap shot". On all sides, players are getting testy as the days of captivity drag by and the internecine conflict festers (inside Palestine as well as amongst the hacks.) There sure is a lot of BBC-bashing going on by Israelis, particularly after the British Union of Colleges and Universities mooted a boycott of Israel.

Complaints that the kidnapped IDF corporal, Gilad Shalit, whose capture ignited the Second Lebanon War last summer, gets less publicity than Johnston seem beside the point. An armed soldier is trained for the risks of combat and is more prepared for the possibility of becoming a prisoner of war. Reporters increasingly face such violence as lawlessness takes hold. In fact, the same Gaza splinter group, Jaish al-Islam, is believed to be holding both of these men.


pondering jew said...

Shalit was grabbed almost a year ago.
No world wide outcry. His family bears the burden

Mr Bagel said...

I think your conclusion is off the mark.

Alan Johnston chose to be the only Western Reporter inside Gaza, he acted knowing the high risk to his safety.

Where as Gilad Shalit although a 'trained soldier' was operating within his country, in a time of relative 'quite', it wasn't a time of war, or even 'increased hostilities'.

I don't in anyway lessen the horror of what Alan Johnston is going through, but the fact is He was kidnapped whilst in Gaza.

Shalit was kidnapped whilst in Israel. To lessen the Kidnapping of Gilad Shalit is simply incorrect.

It breached international law, and was an outlandish act of the Palestinian Government supporting terrorism once again.

That point seems mute to the world community.

Shalom Aaron
Visit: Mr Bagel