AFGHANISTAN (JTA) – The interview that aired Tuesday was surprising not for what the Taliban spokesman said, but because of who was conducting it: a reporter for Israel’s state TV news channel.
Suhail Shaheen, who has been giving interviews in English from Qatar since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, said he had no idea that he was speaking to someone from an Israeli news organization. The Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group, has a history of supporting al-Qaeda, which routinely makes threats against Israel and uses anti-Israel rhetoric in its propaganda.
When Shaheen spoke over video with journalist Roi Kais at Kan, the Israeli broadcaster, Kais named his network but did not tell Shaheen that he or it was Israeli.
In the interview, Shaheen said the Taliban would protect non-Muslim minorities within Afghanistan, including Zebulon Simantov, understood to be the last Jew living there, whom he said he did not know. He also said the Taliban does not have ties to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza and opposes Israel’s existence.
Kan’s interview circulated widely, eliciting surprise that Shaheen consented to speak to an Israeli. But several hours after it aired, Shaheen tweeted that he hadn’t understood who he was speaking to.
“I do many interviews with journalists every day after the falling of provincial centers of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul to the Islamic Emirate,” he wrote. “Some journalists maybe masquerading but I haven’t done interview with any one introducing himself he is from an Israeli media.”