Reporters on the Job
• Into the Light: Staff writer Ilene Prusher has been covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, off and on, for more than a decade. "Back in the early and mid-90s, Hamas was totally underground. There were no offices," she says. If you wanted to do an interview with the militant leaders, "you'd ask your Arabic interpreter to use his contacts to arrange a meeting. You were often driven somewhere in Gaza but you didn't know the destination. You were introduced to a designated spokesman. If you asked for their phone numbers, they'd often refuse, because they knew the Israelis were tracing their calls."
She recalls interviewing Hamas's spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1997 shortly after he was released from an Israeli prison. "In this case, we met in his home. But, frankly, I didn't want to make it a long interview," says Ilene, noting that Israel targeted Hamas leaders for assassination. Mr. Yassin was killed in a missile strike in 2004.
As a result, she says, the emergence of Hamas as a public political party over the past year, is startling. While reporting today's story about the Hamas charter and during the recent elections, "all I had to do was to call up their office or visit them in an office building in Ramallah, just across the hall from the Fatah party. It's radically different."
- David Clark Scott