Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Alan Johnston is Free!!!

BBC Gaza reporter Alan Johnston, center, was released
Wednesday after nearly four months of captivity.

After nearly four months in captivity (12 March -04 July) BBC Gaza reporter Alan Johnston is a free man. He was kidnapped at gunpoint on his way home from work 14 weeks ago by militants claiming to represent the Army of Islam.

In the wake of the civil war in Gaza, political leaders representing Hamas pledged to secure his release. (Hamas severed all ties with the Army of Islam in the wake of the kidnapping.) On Wednesday, Hamas surrounded the compound of the renegade Doghmush Clan with gunmen on rooftops and in alleys. I'm certain it was tense, but they were able to secure his release, although not entirely without violence. Gunfire was exchanged, and a civilian was killed. It was unclear which side was responsible, although Hamas did issue a statement claiming that the renegade militants of the clan were responsible.

He was taken immediately to the home of deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Esmail Haniyeh, where he contacted the BBC and his father. (I just heard moments ago that he has left Gaza, and has crossed the border into Israel, and is en route to Jerusalem.) Hamas leaders in Gaza issued a statement that the rule of law would be enforced in Gaza and the rescue of Alan Johnston was proof that the rule of law would be enforced, and parties acting outside the law would meet stiff resistance.

Now, I'm no expert in the middle east. But I do like to think I am relatively sane, and that leads me to assess the situation as it is, rather than how I would like it to be. Hamas is in charge in Gaza. Period. That is the starting point. Pitching mighty fits and dispensing collective punishments is not going to change that, and continuing down the current path is just stupid. You work with what you have to work with, and you strive to make something better.

It isn't the 80's, Arafat is dead, Fatah is corrupt, Hamas is militant and Israel is nervous.

I get it.

But I also remember the timeless advice of Moshe Dayan: "If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies."

So let's talk.

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