CNN's Perry: Hamas Fighting for 'Independence' Against Israel
On the July 4 CNN Newsrooom, as correspondent Cal Perry reported on the Hamas role in the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in Gaza, Perry characterized Hamas as a "military" organization fighting for "independence" against Israel without mentioning its long-term stated goal of taking over Israel as part of a Palestinian state, or its use of terrorism. Perry: "This is really an organization that's evolving. On the one hand, they're a political organization, they want to stay in political power, and of course on the other hand they're a military organization who are fighting for independence against Israel." (Transcript follows)
Perry did at least relay the criticism that Hamas was using the hostage release as a "PR ploy" for its own gain, and showed a clip of Fatah member Riyad al-Malki accusing Hamas of staging the kidnapping and using the release for "political gains." Below is a complete transcript of Perry's report which aired shortly after 2:00 p.m. during the Wednesday July 4 CNN Newsroom:
KYRA PHILLIPS: Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist, posted to the Gaza beat, became a victim of the instability there. Here's a time line of his ordeal from CNN's Cal Perry in Jerusalem.
CAL PERRY: A military takeover June 14th by Hamas. Gunmen ushered in a new era for Gaza and provided Hamas with a great photo opportunity, posing for pictures inside the Fatah presidential compound. The green flags of Hamas waved with pride. Hamas promised law and order and vowed to resolve the Alan Johnston situation. The BBC reporter kidnapped by Palestinian militants believed to be members of a little-known terror group, Army of Islam. On Wednesday, Hamas made good on its promise, forcing Johnston's release and parading him in front of the cameras, creating yet another photo opportunity. Even Johnston himself was quick to credit the Hamas takeover for his freedom.
ALAN JOHNSTON, BBC journalist: The change in Gaza when Hamas took control, that changed the atmosphere completely. Hamas was a huge law and order agenda, and they wanted to stop the kidnapping and the kidnappers were nervous from that point on. It was from that point that they began to, made the video in which I was put on this explosive vest.
PERRY: Of course, Palestinian society is in the midst of a power struggle. Politics is everything, and the Fatah party, which is at odds with Hamas, was quick to question their motives.
RIYAD AL-MALKI, Palestinian Justice Minister: It's very clear that, you know, we do believe that Hamas stands behind his abduction and his release. Hamas used its own proxies to abduct him and to use him as a bargaining card to gain political gains.
PERRY: Hamas has another potential bargaining card, Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped over a year ago.
GHAZI HAMAD, Palestinian Spokesman: We are interested now to release Gilad Shalit, but also we want to release our Palestinian prisoners because we have 10,000 Palestinians in the Israeli jails.
MARK REGEV, Israeli Foreign Ministry: Israelis understand the pain of having a hostage. One of our own servicemen is being held hostage by Hamas for more than a year. And just as we hoped for Alan Johnston's safe release, we hope that our own serviceman, held now for more than a year, will be released shortly, safely back to his family and friends.
PERRY: By engineering Johnston's release, Hamas demonstrates its control of Gaza. Unknown as yet whether it will use this control to offer Israel a deal for Gilad Shalit's freedom.
PHILLIPS: Cal Perry now joining us live from Jerusalem. Cal, the Alan Johnston release, you touched on it a little bit there, but how much of this do you think was a PR ploy for Hamas?
PERRY: I think a lot of it was. I think Hamas has something to prove. Since they took over Gaza on June 14th, they really want to show the international community that they can control the population, that they can stop the rockets from firing into Israel, and that they can create calm in Gaza. Before June 14th, there was massive street fighting between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas now owns the entire Gaza Strip. And this is really an organization that's evolving. On the one hand, they're a political organization, they want to stay in political power, and of course on the other hand they're a military organization who are fighting for independence against Israel. So, they're really walking a fine line. One thing that's very important to Hamas, and we can tell this from the Alan Johnston release, is they want to open up the borders for the international press. They want to be able to tell the story of the suffering that Palestinians are going through in Gaza, and in order to do that, they have to show that these journalists will be protected. Kyra?
PHILLIPS: You talk about journalists, but also you wonder about the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and if he will be released and has there been any reaction to that, and also more Israeli reaction to the release of the journalist?
PERRY: Well, this is really the back story of today's release of Alan Johnston. We heard the Israeli government saying we have our own still missing for over a year. We know there was an audiotape from Corporal Shalit about a week ago, and we know from sources inside the Israeli government that there is some backdoor talking. The issue at hand is really a prisoner swap. Israel has literally thousands of Palestinian prisoners in jail, and the question at this point, and we'll see how this develops in the coming days, is who is released, how many people are released, and is Hamas willing to release Corporal Shalit. What the Hamas spokespeople and what Hamas is trying to do by releasing Alan Johnston is to show the Israeli government that they are reasonable, that they do want to release this soldier and hopefully get something in return.