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Hamas appoints 1st female English spokesperson

Nov. 4, 2013 5:56 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 26, 2013 3:57 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The government in the Gaza Strip appointed a woman as their first English-language spokeswoman on Sunday, offering the Hamas-led authority a fresh new face to represent itself on the world stage.

Israa Al-Mudallal, 23, a journalist who spent years as a child in the United Kingdom, said in an interview that she would "address Western and Israeli media" and would "work to change media discourse, painting a different picture of Palestine and Gaza."

She added: "The Western media has begun to realize that the Israeli media falsifies the facts, and so we have to make a great effort to debunk Israeli falsehoods."

Al-Mudallal previously worked at the al-Kitab television station, and studied journalism and media at the Islamic University of Gaza.

She credits her studies in journalism as well as her time in Britain as a child for helping her "to understand Western culture."

She attended primary school in the city of Bradford in the United Kingdom, while her father was completing his higher education there. Her father is now a professor of political science and history at the Islamic University in Gaza.

Her appointment comes as part of a broader effort on the part of the Gaza government to strengthen its approach to public relations and to explaining its message to a non-Palestinian audience.

Ihab al-Ghosein, head of the Gaza government’s media relations bureau, said that the move "comes within the framework of the development of Palestinian dialogue with the West, and to find speakers of foreign languages to explain the government’s views and the Palestinian issue to the West.”

"It also falls within the framework of strengthening and emphasizing the role of Palestinian women in serving the Palestinian issue, especially after proving their ability in other fields, such as in ministries and government institutions," he was quoted by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat as saying.

Women have long been active in the Hamas movement, and in addition to the Hamas-led government's sole female minister, Jamilla Al Shanti, there are numerous women in leadership positions in various departments, ministries, and in parliament.

Israa Al-Mudallal's appointment comes at a time of intense pressure on Hamas, as they face the 6-year-old Israeli economic blockade and frequent incursions by the Israeli military on one side, and an Egyptian military coup that has led to broad persecution of Hamas' former allies, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

The Gaza Strip has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by the State of Israel since 2007. The blockade was imposed following the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections and the subsequent 2007 clashes between Fatah and Hamas, which left Hamas in control of the Strip and Fatah in control of the West Bank.

The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans. These have been particularly severe given frequently Israeli military assaults, particularly in 2008-9 and 2011, which killed around 1,400 and 170 Gazans respectively and led to major infrastructural damage.
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