Thursday, July 05, 2007

BBC's Johnston freed but Hamas the Big Winner

Hi Friends,

Those of us who have been following the kidnapping saga of BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston must be elated by this wonderful turn of events.

For once a kidnapping in the Middle-east does not end with the sordid beheading on some radical Islamic website.

Now I can edit out from my blog the logo for Johnston’s release. The tenacious campaign for Johnston's release was initiated by BBC and it included 200000 signatures ( mine included) and I had already commented how impressed I was for efforts that BBC had gone to secure his release. I am sure public pressure had some effect on Hamas and the kidnappers.

Hamas scores propaganda coup

It is obvious that Hamas now has added credibility. After all with its open split with Fatah ( and Hamas' sacking from the government) , Hamas was the sole de-facto government in Gaza and there is no one else to share the limelight ( and steal the thunder) in this event.

How significant is it that Hamas chose to engineer this release now:

1. In the early days of Gordon Brown’s stewardship of the British government. No matter what Brown says about there being no change in foreign affair posture with regards to Hamas, the British public must feel that Hamas is not as evil and unpredictable as they were made to believe.

2. Before Blair really could settle in as M-E envoy of the “Quartet” (ie USA/ EU/ Russia/ UN). This prevents Blair ( who is deemed too closely allied to Bush’s camp) from claiming any credit.

The next publicity coup for Hamas must surely be the release of Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit.

I think with Gilad's freedom, even Israel’s attitude could be softened towards Hamas and then there may actually be a glimmer of hope for some lasting peace.

The only problem is, what sweetener can Hamas offer for the neo-con’s of Washington? Might these neo-con's be tempted to throw in a spanner in the works?

My guess is that all of us will just have to wait for the next US president before we see some significant engagement from the US.

So,the lesson to learn here is that …

We are all pawns in the game of life.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

1. BBC's Alan Johnston is released (BBC News 4 July 07)

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has been released by kidnappers in the Gaza Strip after 114 days in captivity.

Mr Johnston, 45, was handed over to armed men in Gaza City. He said his ordeal was like "being buried alive" but it was "fantastic" to be free.
Speaking live from Jerusalem later, he thanked those who had supported him, and vowed to return to "obscurity".

Rallies worldwide had called for Mr Johnston's release. An online petition was signed by some 200,000 people.

Mr Johnston's father Graham said he and his wife were "overjoyed" at their son's release.

"It's been 114 days of a living nightmare," he said.
Gordon Brown, in his first prime minister's questions session in the UK parliament, said: "The whole country will welcome the news that Alan Johnston, a fearless journalist whose voice was silenced for too long, is now free."
Mr Brown acknowledged the "crucial" role played by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in securing Mr Johnston's release.

Read here for full report

2.BBCNews 4 July 07
There is no doubt that Hamas has scored a major propaganda victory with the release of the BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston.

The issue now is whether it can convert that victory into progress towards getting itself accepted as a recognised representative of the Palestinians internationally.

Currently, the outside world is concentrating its support on the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party which controls the West Bank.

It was no accident that Alan Johnston was taken to the home of the Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniya, who was sacked as Palestinian prime minister by Mr Abbas.

Read here for full report

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