First Woman in Hamas Politburo Rejects Calling Her Election a ‘Turning Point’ (with VIDEO)
Hamas has been working in recent years to gain international acceptance and regional satisfaction, political analyst says
After a three-week period of internal elections, Hamas on Sunday announced the new members of its political bureau, which is the organization’s highest decision-making body. The 15-member political bureau will for the first time have a female member, Jamila Alshanti, of Gaza.
Alshanti who has a bachelor’s degree in English from Ain Shams University in Egypt, and master’s and doctorate degrees in pedagogy from Gaza’s Islamic University, is one of the top targets on Israel’s hit list after leading, in 2006, a successful women’s march to break the Israeli siege imposed on a group of Palestinian activists in Umm Al-Nasr Mosque in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun.
She told The Media Line: “Since the beginning, I have been working in the Hamas movement as a leader, then, I became a member of the Islamic National Salvation Party, formed [by Hamas] with the coming of the Palestinian Authority. In the 2006 legislative election, I was on the Change and Reform list [the Hamas-affiliated winning list], and during that I went through the experience of [leading] the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.”
According to a statement released on Sunday by the media bureau of the Women’s Movement in Hamas, the election of Alshanti “crowns the civilized thought of the movement.”
The internal electoral system of Hamas “allows women to be elected and to hold senior and wide decision-making positions, in addition to guaranteeing her right to joint or independent work,” the statement said.
Hamas wanted to give a positive signal to the international and regional community by changing the stereotype, and confirming that it is an open-minded movement
The unprecedented act of including a female on the party’s politburo is considered by analysts to be a meaningful signal from Hamas to the international community.
“Hamas wanted to give a positive signal to the international and regional community by changing the stereotype, and confirming that it is an open-minded movement,” Adnan Abu Amer, professor of politics and media at Umma University in Gaza, an Islamic university, told media outlets.
Political analyst, Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, told The Media Line that over the past four years, Hamas’ positions on issues such as politically involving women, establishing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, and the brotherhood movement are “primarily seeking to gain an international acceptance and at least less-opposing Arabian neighborhoods.”
This is not the first time that Hamas has made such a shift, Abusada said.
“In May 2017, Hamas showed a positive position toward women when it issued its (principles and general policies) document that praises and appreciates the role of women in the political field,” he said, adding that the election of a female this time is the applied part of that document.
The 34th clause of the document says that: “The role of Palestinian women is essential in building the present and the future, as it has always been in making Palestinian history, and plays a pivotal role in the project of resistance, liberation and building the political system.”
Moreover, Hamas wants to show the international community that it is not so different than the largest Palestinian movement, Fatah, though there is only one female in Fatah’s central committee, Abusada said.
The decision has resonated widely on social media and in media outlets. But Alshanti refuses to call it a “turning point” in Hamas’ methodology.
She told The Media Line that women “on the working level, were already inside the political bureau because we have our own shura [council], administrative and organizational bodies, and we have representatives at the general regional shura office as well. The relationship with our brothers in the movement is based on consultation and we are very close to the decision-making” process.
She said that women did not officially have a seat at the political bureau table before 2014 because “there were security considerations before that date,” and because they had to be undercover “to stay away from Israeli targeting.”
But, since 2014, “a lot had been revealed and we became more courageous thus moved forward to this level,” Alshanti said.
This modernization will definitely reflect on the role of women in the movement and will facilitate transferring feedback to its different organizational bodies.
There are many problems, “but now we can address it directly whether during the bureau’s meetings or during the bilateral ones. We can also tackle issues of women in general and not only the partisan woman … now women are relieved to know that they are represented by a female member who delivers their voices and messages,” she said.
Alshanti, who was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in the 2006 elections, confirmed to The Media Line that she is not participating in the next round elections, scheduled for May. She said that she will focus on her politburo duties as she was mandated by the leadership. She holds the portfolios of “universities and the Quran activities in the Strip.”
According to a 2020 report of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the participation of women in decision-making positions is still limited compared to men, with data showing that 5% of Central Council members, 11% of National Council members, and 14% of Ministers Council members, are women.
Nevertheless, Alshanti believes that, at this stage, Palestinian women are beginning to flourish and rise up.
“The Palestinian woman has proved herself to be able to be in any political position because the reality is what [motivates] her. I see that in whatever position, women can aptly lead … we support that kind of women,” she said.
For many years, Hamas was accused by the international community of being a terrorist and an extremist party that uses violent methods, including against women.
Alshanti refuted that claim, describing it as a “huge injustice.”
“Hamas is a moderate and inclusive movement. We, as women in Hamas, well know that there is no pressure on us at all. We fight and involve as we are self-confident and we trust our leadership regarding what’s going on within the movement,” she said.