Many a time over the years I have been to the Gaza Strip. Time was when I stayed in the hotel on the square in Gaza City, and marvelled to find English plumbing. Once it was possible to explore there, to talk to people and learn from them. No longer. Now every visitor, especially a reporter from the foreign media, is in the hands of a Fatah or a Hamas official who will control what is to be seen and heard.
The kidnapping of the two Fox journalists, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, is a serious warning to the whole press corps that the Palestinians are now determined to allow only their version of events to be published. Every reporter in the Strip will carry a memory of what happened to that pair.
Sure, they weren’t beheaded, but their lives were spared only when they agreed to convert to Islam. In all probability, anyone in those dire circumstances would have behaved as they did, saving their own lives as it must have seemed. The humiliation of the Christians must have seemed to the Muslim captors more rewarding in terms of publicity than murder for the television cameras, Baghdad-style.
However, the Koran explicitly states that, “there is no compulsion in religion.” What happened to Centanni and Wiig, then, is forbidden. As far as I know, not a single Muslim cleric has denounced these gun-point conversions carried out to make a political point. Christian spokesmen equally have nothing to say on the subject. The men themselves seem to have limited themselves to utterances about the Palestinians being “beautiful and kind-hearted people.” This whole episode may look small, and to be speedily overlooked, but actually it illuminates a large and lurid reality.