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Ambassador Shalom Cohen Photo: Reuters
Ambassador Shalom Cohen Photo: Reuters
 
 

Egypt: Meeting between journalist, Israeli ambassador stirs storm

Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Shalom Cohen's visit to al-Ahram center this week, meeting with reporter Hala Mustafa, angers local journalists who say meeting part of 'normalization of ties with Israel' call for Mustafa's dismissal

Roee Nahmias
Published: 09.17.09, 13:59 / Israel News

Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Shalom Cohen's visit this week to state-run al-Ahram's offices stirred a storm in the country, as some claimed this was part of "normalization of ties with Israel" which they say is unacceptable.

 

The Egyptian Journalists Association went so far as to demand the reporter that met with him, Hala Mustafa, be fired.

 

The ambassador and Mustafa were shocked by the harsh response and the fuss caused following the meeting. Sources in the Israeli embassy in Cairo on Thursday told Ynet they were disappointed and shocked over the storm Cohen's meeting cause.

 

"We regret the conduct of the Egyptian associations, which continue to harm any initiative meant to promote ties between the peoples, and this was actually in the Palestinian people's favor," a source said.

 

Mustafa stressed that there was nothing out of the ordinary in her meeting with Cohen, and that she had received authorization from her superiors and that Egyptian journalists meeting with Israeli bodies all the time.

 

She said the outcry was actually due to a personal attack on her.

 

The incident began following Ambassador Cohen's initiative to organize a seminar on whether the issue of normalization of ties with Israel could be used to promote the Palestinian issue.

 

He approached al-Ahram, which runs a daily state newspaper and the "Democracy" magazine, and asked to meet with the center's director Abd al-Munim Said. The initiative came after a meeting between Cohen and Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials, who he shared the idea with and was not met with any objections.

 

Said agreed to a meeting but asked to have it "after Ramadan", which led Cohen to ask for a meeting with Mustafa in the meantime. Mustafa is one of the center's senior journalists and the editor of "Democracy".

 

The two scheduled a meeting, which took place on Monday.

 

Makram Mohammed Ahmed, head of the journalist association, told London-based al-Quds al-Arabi on Tuesday that he would not tolerate any deviation from the journalistic consensus, which opposes normalization with Israel.

 

He said the journalists' association council will convene on Thursday "to make a decision in the matter".

 

According to reports in Arab media, it was Mustafa who invited Cohen to the meeting. However, she quickly denied this and insisted that senior sources in the center were aware of the meeting ahead of time, and that Dr. Said "had knowledge of the meeting in advance and did not object to it directly. If he had objected the visit would have been avoided."

 

In interview with Arab media, Mustafa said journalists who are trying to defame her are behind such reports. "Chairman of the board of executives, Dr. Said, met with Israeli and Jewish personalities himself many times, both in Egypt and abroad, and he even travelled to Tel Aviv in the past," she said.

 

Mustafa also warned that she plans to "expose all the journalists who are collaborating with Israel, meeting with Israeli personalities, eating and holding mutual visits with them both officially and unofficially."

 

She said there are conferences held abroad between Israeli and Egyptian writers and intellectuals. "I'm willing to open the subject of my nationalism for conversation to anyone who is in doubt," she added.

 

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