Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Alan Johnston kidnapped

Alan Johnston is the BBC journalist who was kidnapped in Gaza over a month ago.

I hear a fair bit of BBC news, so his situation is aired fairly often. The BBC has been keeping the issue constantly on the boil.

There’s been no word from Johnston, and no word on who kidnapped him.

Periodically, the Palestinian authorities have said “he’s alive”, but has offered nothing tangible to even suggest they've heard from his kidnappers. There's been a couple of hitherto unknown groups that have claimed responsibility variously for having killed him or kidnapped him. None of those claims have carried any proof or verification.

Meanwhile, Gaza’s been dying a slow death in part due to this issue; international [aid] workers have been in retreat, and infrastructure and assistance has gone downhill. It is clear that this incident has helped nobody. Various Palestinian and international people and organisations are doing all they can. So why does the issue remain unresolved, and why is the issue laboured so?

It’s possible that he’s still being held, with nobody taking credit. But the simplest explanation for the totality of events is that his kidnappers rashly killed him quite early in the piece.

That does rather feel like the elephant in the room. But nobody wants to say it out loud, because while there is the possibility he's alive, the best course of action is probably reckoned to be to keep agitation for his release.

Unfortunately, it's easy to imagine this issue will keep festering until it dies out.

9-May-07 Update: The latest news report carries the suggestion that he's alive. The BBC was given some items (including ID card) and demands, and the Palestinian Authority said they'd been in touch with the kidnappers, and knew where he was, but that it was not safe to rescue him.

All that evidence remains circumstantial, but does hint that the BBC had sufficient confidence to keep up a campaign - possibly in order to discourage kidnappers from killing him. Questions remain: why keep him so long in silence? [the answer that makes most sense: he's dead.] And arethe kidnappers' motivation political? or criminal? Or are these substantially blurred in such a dehumanising region?

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