Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Palestinian Hamas movement has appointed its first female English-language spokesperson, as part of a new strategy to engage with Western media.
The new spokesperson, Israa Al-Mudallal, 23, a writer and a journalist, said: “I will address Western and Israeli media, and I will work on changing the media discourse and give a different picture of Palestine and Gaza.”
She added that she recognized that achieving her goals needed many years of hard work, promising to talk to the world from a humanitarian angle, not a religious one.
She said: “I will make the issues more human, and even if [Palestinian] officials do not understand this language, I know Western people will.” She added: “The West does not understand religious discourse the same way they do human discourse.”
Mudallal will be the first woman to work as a press representative for the Hamas government, which currently includes one female minister, Jamilah Al-Shanti, the Minster for Women’s Affairs. The Islamic movement also has a number of female deputies in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
Mudallal, who has lived for some time in Britain and was educated in the city of Bradford in northern England, said that her experience of life in the UK has greatly improved her understanding of the West.
As well as following European and American media, Mudallal says she is also in the process of learning Hebrew, to enable her to follow Israeli media directly. She said: “I am learning everything about Israeli, Western and American media . . . and I spend a lot of time reading and watching different channels.”
The new Hamas spokeswoman said she did not have a problem with talking to Israeli media, in contrast to the policy currently followed by the ousted government and by many leaders of Hamas, though she stressed that she would only do so with official permission.
“If I am given permission, I personally have no problem,” she said.
The Hamas government does not allow journalists in Gaza to deal with Israeli media sources, and many officials refuse to talk to Israeli journalists.
The appointment of Israa Al-Mudallal is part of a new plan by Gaza’s Hamas government to improve its relations with Western media. Ihab Al-Ghosein, head of the government’s media relations bureau and Gaza government spokesman, said: “The bureau has decided to appoint a spokeswoman who speaks English, journalist Israa Al-Mudallal, within the framework of implementing the bureau’s objectives for 2013.”
Ghossein, speaking to the Hamas government’s official press agency, said: “It 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 added.
Mudallal, a journalism graduate from the Islamic University in Gaza, previously worked as a correspondent for Iran’s English-language Press TV channel, and has produced a number of Palestinian films, which she translated into English.
She recently resigned from her job as a presenter at the Islamic Al-Kitab satellite channel in order to focus on her new role. She said she was not a member of Hamas and that “my acceptance of the position does not point to my [political] affiliation,” adding “I am affiliated to Palestine, and I will speak in the name of Palestine.”
Asked whether she would have accepted the job had the offer come from Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s area, she said: “If it was in the service of Palestine, yes, wherever I go, I will speak in the name of humanity.”