Coming in April is the US release of a trade paperback, originally published in Britain, by Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent who was kidnapped and held for 114 days by a fringe terrorist group in the Gaza Strip. Appropriately entitled, “Kidnapped And Other Dispatches,” it is short (160 spare pages) — mostly a compilation of transcripts of Johnston’s broadcasts from Gaza, Afghanistan and Central Asia (where he was assigned prior to being in Gaza from 2004 until 2007).
“Kidnapped” also includes an interview conducted by the book’s editor, Tony Grant, his BBC producer, in which Johnston discusses the circumstances of his ordeal in some detail. Ironically, although kidnapped by terrorists, he was rescued by Hamas forces after they seized full control of Gaza in June 2007, in a military putsch against Fatah.
Johnston appears to be a gentle and sensitive Scottish bachelor in his late 30s, with the peculiar adventurous and inquisitive makeup that suits a foreign correspondent. His generically British (rather than specifically Scottish) accented voice is soft, raspy and melancholic – the last due at least in part to the sad human tales of conflict and its aftermath that he reports on.
He is fair-minded. Uncritical supporters of Israel would be disturbed by his clear pronouncement that Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories are “illegal” and his stories of Palestinian suffering at Israel’s hand. Yet uncritical supporters of the Palestinian cause might also object to his candid assessments of rocket attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli civilians; he reports on one such attack from the scene in Israel. Johnston is totally aware that Palestinian terrorism boomerangs with Israeli reactions that deepen the Palestinian plight.