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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 10:24 GMT
Letter to Alan and his abductors
Bassam Nasser, director of the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution is a friend of Alan Johnston in Gaza and regular commentator on the BBC. He has written this letter urging the release of the BBC correspondent, who disappeared 11 days ago and is feared kidnapped.

To my kidnapped friend Alan Johnston.

And his kidnappers.

I hesitated many times before writing these sentences. I scribbled word after word before ripping them up.

From the first moment, I thought that the news of your kidnapping would change quickly like the clouds of summer.

I thought that you would call your friends and say they had got the wrong person. I thought that you would receive apologies from your kidnappers and you would forgive them all before leaving Gaza.

But this did not happen. And all the demonstrations from your journalistic colleagues - Palestinian and foreign - has not moved your kidnappers to release you.

You have not been affected by the spirit of unity and hopeful atmosphere that has permeated Palestinian society (following the announcement of a national unity government).

This is the first time in years that I have not heard your voice asking me to comment or to clarify important political events in Palestine.

How I wish I knew you were safe and well. I hope that you have pens and papers, and maybe a recorder, because I know you will do your job even though you are a prisoner.

My dear friend Alan, moments after your release you will leave Gaza and Palestine, God willing, and after that we may never see you again.

You might decide, and you have every right, never to visit Palestine again. You might be afraid and you might hesitate.

But in spite of all that has happened, I am sure that you will know the mothers and wives and children of your kidnappers will never accept it.

You know that there are those that deserve respect in Gaza, in spite of your harsh experience here.

The people of Palestine were raised to appreciate and respect all their guests - but you still deserve a very big apology.

As we stand today, you, my friend, are not around. We ask ourselves: Are we responsible for what happened to you?

Educated Palestinians have talked about kidnappings since the first incident. We were sure it would not go on like this. But we say today that we were wrong.

We say that these actions could even happen to us, just as it happened to you. Kidnapping is no longer the work of an individual or a random event. For too long, we were silent over this issue and now we are living with the consequences.

We hope that your family and colleagues see you before your editor ever decides to publish this letter.

I hope that your kidnapping will not be the most important part in the book, which I know, for sure, you will write about Gaza - its people, its streets, its land, its restaurants, and all its beauty and ugliness.

To your kidnappers, my discussion will not be long. I will not say to you that Alan does not deserve to be kidnapped because he is a journalist who reports the news of Palestine. He does not deserve to be kidnapped because first and foremost he is a human being.

Your actions are no way to treat human beings, no matter who they are, no matter what race, occupation, age, gender, affiliation, or religion they are.

I ask you treat Alan with the same respect that he has shown to every Palestinian throughout his time in Palestine. Look upon him with fondness, the same way he did with every Palestinian he ever met.

I hope that you know - and no matter how big you believe your grievance to be - that what you have done is harsh on all your people and to your cause.

Whatever you have achieved by this kidnapping you are the losers in the end - and forever.

I hope that you will wake up and not hesitate to free Alan without looking for cover, a story, an excuse or a way out.

I hope that you will not wait any longer and that you will remember that the human being with you is a liberated and dignified man. He worked professionally and tirelessly. He asked the difficult questions and reported objectively.

He does not deserve this insult that insults you, me, and every honourable free Palestinian.

The person with you is a human being before he was ever a journalist. He has family, friends who are worried about him and the least that they deserve is to know that Alan is OK.

Finally, I hope that you will take the credit and appreciation of freeing Alan rather than leaving it to a politician.

Bassam Nasser

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