The story that Johnston needed to tell

By Vic Rosenthal

BBC reporter Alan Johnston was kidnapped in Gaza two weeks ago. Hamas and Fatah have both criticized his kidnapping, but seem to be unable to recover him.

Z. [a Fatah worker] told Haaretz he believed the worst was yet to come. “Pretty soon there will be militants in each and every junction. Everybody knows who’s holding Alan Johnston…It’s a large family, and they’re after money. Instead of surrounding the premises and acting against them, the security forces are negotiating with them,” he complains. “Breaking in their will cost lives, but there’s no alternative. You have to move in with force to restore order.”

Johnston’s position is not enviable.

Foreign journalists who have been kidnapped and then released by the family say they were treated in an especially demeaning manner. They go on to say that the Iraqi influence was obvious in the clothing of their captors, their language and their methods of handling prisoners, including forced conversions to Islam. — Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz

BBC director Mark Thompson said Johnston was “one of those amazing BBC people who make extraordinary sacrifices and take considerable risks because they believe a story needs to be told“.

While I am horrified by the thought of what he is undoubtedly going through and wish for his speedy release, there’s a certain irony involved when one contemplates the story that Johnston apparently believed needed to be told, a story of the Palestinian David versus the brutal Israeli Goliath.

Here are some links to BBC stories filed from the territories by Johnston:

News – Gaza nurtures hopes of peace

The BBC’s Alan Johnston reports from Gaza where people are hoping a fragile ceasefire agreement will hold.. 2 December 2006

News – Gaza relishes moment of peace

The BBC’s Alan Johnston reports from the battered Gaza Strip enjoying a ceasefire after months of Israeli attacks.. 28 November 2006

News – Palestinians’ high-risk human shield tactic

Palestinians in Gaza adopt a new tactic of human shields to deter Israeli attacks, but this is a high-risk strategy, says Alan Johnston.. 20 Nov 2006

News – Gaza fishermen risk Israeli fire

Palestinians defy an Israeli ban on all fishing off Gaza, often risking their lives, says the BBC’s Alan Johnston.. 13 October 2006

News – Hamas not budging on recognition

Ismail Haniya wants to woo foreign governments without ending the movement’s opposition to Israel, says Alan Johnston.. 12 October 2006,

News – Hero-worship in the ruins of Rafah

BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston explains how many Palestinians see members of the militant Islamist organisation, Hamas, as heroes making a stand in the ruins of Rafah.. 29 May 2004

News – When Israeli army comes calling

Alan Johnston reports from Nablus on how the lives of ordinary Palestinians are being re-shaped by the seemingly endless confrontation.. 7 Mar 2003

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