04 July 2007

Johnston is free.

This is one piece of good news that rational people, lovers of liberty all over the world, ought to greet with ... well, maybe fireworks displays?

After four months as a hostage, Alan Johnston is free. His captors, the "Army of Islam," released him from their Gaza Strip HQ today, in the early hours of Wednesday morning (Gaza Strip time).

Johnston didn't have much to say, except that he told an AP reporter, "I'm OK. Really, I'm OK." And, under the circumstances, I can understand that he needs some R&R time before he is any more forthcoming about his experience than that.

Under pressure from Hamas, the Army of Islam apparently dropped its earlier demand that the UK release a radical Islamic cleric with ties to al-Qaeda as the price of Johnston's release.

Hamas, you might remember, forcibly took control of Gaza from Fatah only two weeks ago in bitter intra-Palestinian fighting. Fatah continues to control the West Bank, which is of course the larger part of the Palestinian not-quite-a-state entity thing.

Johnston's release, then, might be seen as a move in the continued Fatah/Hamas struggle. On June 19, in the midst of the fighting between the two factions, Khalil al-Haya, one of the Hamas lawmakers, said that he was "shocked and surprised by the [Fatah] voices forbidding discussions with us, while they enter discussions with Israel." http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1181813070301&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Perhaps Hamas is now worried about the extent of their own international isolation, and concerned that Fatah has come to seem like a reasonable operation by virtue of its wilingness to talk to Israel. Perhaps (and I'm doing nothing but spinning out a line of speculations without any credibility at all here -- this, after all, is a blog) ... Hamas is trying to one-up Fatah in reasonableness by showing that it is not only willing, but capable of, releasing a western hostage.

Johnston's release and safety are good news items anyway. If they are a harbinger of a new sort of competition among Palestinian factions, a competition in the direction of reason, then it is terrific news.

Light those sparklers.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.