Amman, May 14, 2007
Saturday marked two months since BBC journalist Alan Johnston was abducted in the Gaza Strip. At that time, many rumours have circulated regarding his whereabouts, well-being and the kidnappers' demands.
Most recently, a group identifying itself as the Army of Islam said it was holding the veteran reporter and called on Britain in particular, but "impious governments" in general, to release Muslim prisoners. The audio recording included pictures of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
It is unfortunate that the two issues should be confused. It is also sad that some people in this region should seek to fight injustice by committing further injustice. To hold prisoners at Guantanamo Bay without recourse to law is a gross violation of their human rights. To do so in Gaza is similarly a crime. Do the means justify the end? Not in this case.
Aware of this, all Palestinian factions, journalists, Arab governments and all right-thinking people have called for the immediate and unconditional release of Johnston, a man who was only doing his job of bringing the plight of the Palestinian people and the inhumane conditions in Gaza to the attention of the world. To target such a man, whatever his nationality or religion, is outrageous and counterproductive.
Much criticism has been levelled at the Palestinian Authority for its handling of the matter. And while it is lamentable that the PA has so little control over matters under its jurisdiction, it behoves us all to give the authorities the benefit of the doubt.
Since it is not known what the actual ransom is, it is not clear whether the PA is in a position to meet the kidnappers' demands.
It also seems clear that the PA is as much in the dark as everyone else as to the identity of this particular group, otherwise they would no doubt have attempted to secure Johnston's release before now.
But what is absolutely clear is that the chaos and disorder in Gaza that we are now witnessing is a direct result of Israeli policies aimed at weakening the PA in order to continue its brutal and illegal occupation of the occupied territories. And why would Israel want to create such disorder on its very doorstep one might ask? The answer is also clear and historically proven: the Jewish state can claim yet again that it has no credible partner for peace.
This Israeli strategy is in turn a direct consequence of the international powers failure to understand that Israel has no interest in peace and will use every excuse it can muster to keep possession of the land seized in 1967.
It is high time the international community woke up to this fact and directly intervene to bring about a just solution to the Palestinian issue. This will not free Johnston, but it may save many more like him in the future from suffering the same injustice.