When rumors that a deal that would Gilad Shalit home to Israel in exchange for over 1,000 terrorists turned into reality, Israel's media outlets – along with several foreign ones – began jockeying for the rights to conduct the first interview with Gilad after he returned home.
But they were all trumped by Egypt's state-controlled media – which conducted its own interview with Shalit, minutes after he was handed over to Egypt by his Hamas captors. Israeli officials are up in arms over that interview, with a government spokesperson saying that Israel had expressed its “shock” to the Egyptian government for forcing Gilad to go through what was clearly a very difficult experience.
The interview was conducted by veteran Egyptian TV personality Shahira Amin on behalf of the government-owned Nile TV news station. During the interview, Shalit appeared tired, pale, and even dazed, as he was asked what struck many Israelis as particularly odd questions. Among the questions Amin asked Shalit were whether, after knowing what it was like to be held captive, if he would campaign for the release of terrorists held in Israeli prisons for long periods, and whether “the experience had made him stronger.”
During the interview, it even appeared that Shalit was having difficulty breathing, many viewers said. Adding to the confusion was the fact that the interview was conducted in three languages: Amin asked questions in English, and they were translated into Hebrew for Gilad to answer, and into Arabic for the Egyptian audience. His responses were translated into Arabic and into English.
A senior Israeli official, speaking anonymously in order to avoid setting off further tensions between Israel and Egypt, told the Associated Press Tuesday night that Israelis “are all shocked that a so-called interview was forced on (Schalit) before he could even talk to his family or set foot on Israeli soil.”
The questions were politically loaded, the official said, with Shalit probably coached by Hamas on the questions and appropriate answers. Speaking on Channel 10, anchorwoman Yonit Levy called the interview "borderline torture,” while foreign affairs correspondent Raviv Drucker said that “an interview forced on a prisoner just released is a low thing to do.”
Amin, for her part, said that she believed she did an adequate job in the interview, and was under the impression that Shalit was speaking voluntarily rather than under compulsion. Speaking to Israeli media Tuesday night, Amin said that if she had felt or known that Shalit was being forced to do the interview, she would have canceled it.
“If he had refused to speak, I would not have continued the interview. He appeared very tired during the interview so I stopped and gave him some water, and then asked him if he wanted to continue. He answered 'yes,' so I asked him some more questions,” Amin said.