BBC reporter kidnapped in Gaza
I was saddened to learn that my friend and colleague, Alan Johnston, the BBC's Gaza correspondent, was kidnapped today.
Alan and I crossed paths many times when I was in Gaza, particularly when I did some freelance work for the BBC or went into their studio to record a radio segment, but also on the field-during Disengagement and other, more mundane press conferences.
Alan and I used to always joke about the day he would get kidnapped-what kind of biscuits his captors would serve him, and how he would take his tea (catch-and-release kidnappings in Gaza have in recent years become so frequent as to become banal). I always used to tell him that he had such a comforting and mellow voice-so much so that I could hardly imagine him getting angry, even at a kidnapper.
This isn't the first time they've tried to come for him of course. As a pre-caution, Alan's office removed the "BBC" sign by their multi-lock door in Gaza.
Alan is one of those few foreign reporters who are actually stationed in Gaza at a time when most opt to remain in their comfy confines far away in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, and parachute in when the occasion arises.
All of the major groups (Hamas, Fatah, even al-Aqsa Martrys Brigades, who vowed to dispatch their own little search party to find Alan) have condemned the kidnapping, though I am sure press releases are of little comfort to someone in captivity. A friend in Gaza tells me word on the street is that the Dogmosh clan is behidn the kidnapping( they are a sort of mafia-ish family clan located in Gaza City responsible for a spate of kidnappings and tit-for-tat killings of Hamas security forces. The Dogmosh family were seeking to pressure police to release clan members detained for criminal actions).
Kidnapping has died down as phenomenon in Gaza, though whether that is because there are less foreigners, more security, or simply less public support is anyone's guess.
It is such a low and reprehensible act that everyoen seems to detest in Gaza (but clearly not those who keep doing it). My guess is , the reason it keeps happening is because in order to persuade the groups to release their captives, they are offered all sorts of carrots-in the past this has come in the form of pay raises, job promotions, or simply employment.
It has been a tactic many have staunchly disagreed with, saying it simply provides rewards the actions of the kidnappers and provides others with an incentive to continue doing it. The defense has been that at least such actions have prevented a single act of kidnapping form turning bloodly, as in IRAQ.
In this case, I would say the demands will be greater-the BBC is a big name, and if it is indeed the Dogmosh clan behind it, it was committed as a strategic time, only days before the formation of the Unity Government. The clan will likely be demanding the release of their detained members or some sort of official pardon.
Here's hoping for Alan's quick release...our thoughts are with you Alan.