As one group, press workers in Gaza united in solidarity with the kidnapped British reporter, holding the Palestinian government responsible for his safety, a stance that shows the collective sentiment within the Palestinian media body that feels that the press is being targeted as part of the political game between the internal tug of war and external exploitation as well. It was rumored that the kidnapping coincided with Iran’s capture of the British sailors as part of a bilateral confrontation that involved the UN Security Council, the Iranian agents in Iraq and others.
Whether or not Iran has played a part in the kidnapping of Alan Johnston or if the factions fighting for money and power are to blame, all indicators are not looking good in the Gaza Strip, which has too much of everything except security and the means of livelihood. The government, as well as Fatah and other authority members, would be the loser if it triggered panic among the media agencies that have faced unusual dangers over the past few months as open threats against journalists continue from government workers and anti-government militias.
The Palestinian cause has remained not only because it is just or because it fought for its rights but also because the media has always embraced it in spite of other issues and occupied territories around the world.
Over decades, the Israelis have sought to muzzle the press, prevent photographers from conveying facts and to silence commentators, but they have failed terribly. Today, what both Hamas and Fatah did – the bombing and burning of cars, death threats and keeping silent about kidnappings – will lead journalists to the same outcome as in Iraq, namely, leaving the arena and causing the issue to disappear.
Today, we call to mind the sense of tolerance that characterized the time of Palestinian activity towards foreign media that accommodated all journalists, including Israelis. The late President Yasser Arafat had always succeeded in gathering media anchors around him. They were his best battalion, and through them he had made his voice and that of the Palestinians heard and put Israel and its allies on the defense even at the pinnacle of his defeat when, for example, he had been expelled from Beirut onboard a ship. Arafat was a successful vocal phenomenon, winning all his battles using newspapers and televisions. Now Gaza lives on the news of journalists whereas before journalists would live on the news of Gaza.
The government would be mistaken if it thought that it is immune from criticism just because the hostage-takers are unknown at this time, because we believe that it is unreasonable for a reporter to have been kidnapped since March 12 with no requests made without the government being aware. Indicators show a deliberate political operation that resembles previous kidnappings and destructive plans that bore the hallmark of the government rather than mere thieves and bandits. Such crimes will have only one outcome – the antagonizing of the perpetrators and declaring them outlaws, even if they are officially the protectors of this law.