The LA Times has tried it’s hand at making serious demands of Hamas. It’s riddled with errors and misconceptions that illustrate how inadequate PCP is when it tries to get tough.
Free Alan Johnston
Punishing journalists has become a standard tactic of terror. Which side is Hamas on?
June 21, 2007
IF HAMAS WANTS TO show that it intends to govern Gaza and not merely squat on that strip of misery, it should arrange the release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston.
Note several things:
- 1) All of a sudden the word terror is okay when it’s attacks on journalists. Not militancy or activism, not resistance, as it is when it’s a matter of blowing up Israeli civilians.
- 2) “If Hamas wants to show…”: they editorial page writers have been reading their paper’s op-eds and are ready to take Hamas at their word. Apparently all they have to do is free Alan Johnston and they’ll have proved their bona fides.
- 3) The alternative to governing Gaza (i.e., to establishing a responsible government concerned for the welfare [honor?] of its “citizens”), is “merely squatting on that strip of misery.” No mention of what terrorism is really about… no discussion of the possibility of a Jihad State.
That’s a lot of mistakes for three short sentences.
Wednesday marked the 100th day of captivity for Johnston, the last foreign correspondent to actually live in Gaza, where he has been based since 2004. He was abducted in March by a group that calls itself the Army of Islam but is reportedly more of an armed clan of smugglers and guns-for-hire than a political movement.
And who tells us that? Is this more of the “they don’t really mean their Islam…”? What is the border between thuggery and zealotry? Can we see it so easily detect it?
In exchange for Johnston’s freedom, the hostage-takers have demanded the release of various Palestinian prisoners, including a cleric with Al Qaeda ties who is being held in Britain. That demand has sparked speculation about whether the reputed head of the Army of Islam, Mumtaz Dagmoush, a leader of the Dagmoush clan who is reportedly estranged from Hamas, is trying to forge an alliance with Al Qaeda or might have been paid by someone else to snatch Johnston.
Be that as it may, Hamas had denounced Johnston’s kidnapping even before it routed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah forces in a bloody, six-day civil war that ended last week, and promised it would free him soon. Immediately upon its victory, it gave Dagmoush 24 hours to release Johnston. The Army of Islam responded by threatening to kill him. Hamas has promised law and order in Gaza, however, and if, after throwing Fatah rivals off rooftops and other atrocities, it wishes to show the world that it can in fact reimpose civilized norms in Gaza, it should deliver Johnston unharmed.
This is nothing short of breathtaking. The idea that people who take power with atrocities can “reimpose civilized norms” rather than the order of a state of terror, is itself a strange notion. It’s almost as if these editors can’t wait to welcome this organization into the bosom of “civilized” nations, no matter what their method for asserting their power and their order. And how bizarre that the key here is the return of a journalist, rather than how they handle local opposition. Solepsism anyone?
The Johnston case has broader implications in an age when shooting the messenger has become a standard technique of Islamist terror. It’s no coincidence that murders of journalists worldwide are increasing. To suppress information is to hoard power; it kneecaps democratic development.
This is good. But it’s been going on in the Middle East for centuries, and openly at work in the “Palestinian” areas (West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, etc.) since the 1970s. All of a sudden the LA Times is reminding us about the importane of “honest” media and democracy?
Consider Iraq, where 32 journalists were killed last year, 13 have died this year and 14 are now held hostage. That compares with 71 journalists killed during 13 years of the Vietnam War. With death threats arriving daily, what kind of fearless reporting on Iraq’s civil strife, what kind of hard-hitting investigations of death squads and terrorists or political or clerical corruption can be expected from journalists who wish to remain alive? And consider Afghanistan, where two female journalists have been murdered this month in a Taliban campaign of intimidation against women who dare speak out in the media. What kind of civil society can bloom in their silence?
Wow. And apply that logic to the Palestinians and more than half of the news the LA Times reports would die on the cutting room floor.
A modern society, whether in Gaza or Iraq, cannot aspire to political accountability if its press is terrorized. The American founding fathers understood this, and so does the Taliban. Where does Hamas stand?
Good grief. What’s this about the Taliban?
And why should the symbolic release of Johnston, himself an advocacy-journalist who has, until now, survived longer than any other foreign journalist in Gaza because he has learned to accede to all the demands for alignment with propaganda that Palestinian leaders demand.
So the LA Times has shown its spine. It’s made a minimal demand which actually reveals its own self-absorption, as a test of Hamas’ intentions, a softball pitch which Hamas has already stated it’s willingness to hit. And if they fail? It’ll be because they didn’t want to hurt poor Alan…
Watch out Hamas, they’re serious. Watch out, Western media, you’re terminally specious.