Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Controlling Gaza Inputs


Anyone who doubts that soft power is important should look to the Gaza Strip where, as the Wall Street Journal reports today in “Uncertain Fate of Gaza Reporter Deepens Concerns,” a new breed of radicals is focusing on control of information:

JERUSALEM—Fanatical Islamists of the type sowing chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to be operating with increasing impunity in the Gaza Strip, heightening concern about the rising danger posed by al Qaeda-inspired groups or similar violent fringe groups in the Palestinian territories.


The same day [a] claim about [the kidnapping and alleged killing of BBC reporter Alan] Johnston was made, two Internet cafes and a Christian bookstore in Gaza were bombed. That followed last week’s bombings at a computer lab and library of a cultural center. Since the beginning of this year, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights has documented a string of such attacks, targeting businesses or institutions with products or services that are deemed by Islamic radicals to be impure or potentially corrupting.

The article implies that these are not Hamas- or Fatah-inspired bombings, but either homegrown freelancers or the leading edge of an al-Qa’ida surge into Gaza. In either case, the perps are clearly concerned about cutting off Gazans’ access to any information flow but their own—and it’s unclear what their views are at this point. Next up, I’d watch for bombings of broadcast facilities and news crews, and there are a few in Gaza.

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