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Ruth Eglash

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Egyptian Interview With Gilad Shalit Was Ill-Timed but the Scoop Every Journalist Dreams Of

Posted: 10/19/11 03:24 PM ET

For most Israelis, the Egyptian state TV interview with Gilad Shalit just minutes after his release from Hamas was ill timed and harrowing.

Broadcast live around the world, including in Israel, the image of an emaciated, pale and confused young man will, collectively, be very hard to forget. It was the moment that the Jewish nation had been eagerly awaiting for more than five years and it was more shocking than most had expected.

Now, with Shalit safely at home in Mitzpeh Hila, the Israeli public led by key local journalists have unleashed a barrage of both personal and professional criticisms over the conduct of Egyptian state TV journalist Shahira Amin in the controversial interview. As one media outlet wrote: "She has now become Public Enemy No.1."

These accusations against Amin, who became an icon of the revolution when she publicly quit her job as Deputy Head of Nile TV International in protest during last February's uprising, are unnecessarily harsh.

Stemming either from a pressure to keep their viewers interested or from plain old journalistic jealousy, those presenting the "Gilad Shalit release story" Tuesday on Israeli TV blatantly accused Amin of forcing him into the chair. They said she pumped him with insensitive or inane questions and one Israeli TV presenter even called the interview "a new form of Egyptian torture."

However, its time they all looked in the mirror. Amin acted as any other journalist -- Israeli, Arab or other -- would have done if they'd been presented with the chance of interviewing the world's most talked about man.

As a journalist, you ask for an interview and if you get it (and no one else does) then you have a scoop! Regardless of the more sinister intentions behind that interview.

The real question here is, 'would any journalist have turned down that chance?' And if Amin had turned it down on moral grounds, then no doubt someone else would have ended up interviewing Shalit anyway because that was the goal of the Egyptian authorities transferring him from Hamas hands back to Israeli soil.

But it was Amin who did the interview and under conditions that were clearly not easy for anyone involved. She herself admits there was so much uncertainty right until it took place and still photos have since emerged of a masked Hamas militant standing directly behind Shalit's chair.

Considering all this, what we as Israelis should now acknowledge is Amin's compassion during the interview and her words of kindness afterwards when she told reporters that Shalit had appeared weak and frail. She even noticed his stumbling English and immediately brought in an interpreter so he could speak in his native Hebrew.

Granted, Amin, reporting for State TV, perhaps a bit too obviously emphasized Egypt's role in bringing about the deal and asked a question or two about Palestinian prisoners and Shalit's living conditions but overall asking him about his feelings, his future plans and his anticipation to see his family, were justified and, honestly, what we all wanted to know.

What else could have been asked?

As Israelis continue to rage over the inappropriate timing of the interview and Amin's role in it, what has become evidently clear is that it is not about journalistic talents at all. It's about an association of Amin with the first images of Shalit and about the right of an Arab to interview Israel's beloved hero. Why else are we not totally outraged by international and Israeli media's constant presence just yards from Shalit's home when we all know that what he needs right now is peace and quiet?

The response to Amin's interview is an emotional one. Gilad Shalit is our (collective) son; we are all overwhelmed by his return and weepy over his reunification with his family.

Sadly Amin, who is among the more sensitive and open-minded Egyptian journalists and who clearly wants peace, will from now on and forever be connected to the disturbing view of the injustice done by Hamas to our fellow Israeli.

 

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