November 10, 2013 Gaza City, AP The Hamas government of the Gaza Strip has for the first time appointed a woman to represent it to the world.
The hiring of Isra Almodallal as a spokeswoman for the territory’s conservative Islamist rulers is part of a long-running push by the group, which has at times sought to curb women’s freedoms, to present a newer friendlier face both to its own citizens and internationally.
Almodallal, a 23-year-old who speaks fluent British-accented English, has assumed a post normally held by tough-talking men who voice Hamas’s bitter opposition to Israel. She will be responsible for the Gaza government’s communications with the international media.
‘We are looking forward to having a different and unique language,’ said Almodallal in an interview in her Gaza City office, during her first week on the job. ‘We will make the issues more human.’
The change in policy began six months ago when a new head of the government media department, Ihab Ghussein, took over. He hired younger media people, started a new official government website, began rampant use of social media and started conducting seminars and workshops.
Ghussein said he appointed Almodallal in an effort ‘to be more open to the West.’ He said many women were among the dozens of applicants considered for the position.
‘Women are partners in our society,’ Ghussein said.
Almodallal, a divorced mother of a four-year-old girl, does not have her roots in the Hamas movement. Unlike many other Hamas officials, her office does not bear a photo of Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. She keeps a book on American history there, alongside the Quran.
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The Hamas charter says that it is “one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine” and soon after Hamas took over the Gaza strip, Muslim Brotherhood representatives traveled to Gaza from Egypt through the newly-opened border to review Hamas military formations. A Hamas journalist has acknowledged the role that the “international Muslim Brotherhood” has played in providing funds for the purchase of weapons and Hamas is known to be supported financially and politically by the global Muslim Brotherhood. A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman revealed that a coalition of London-based Muslim groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, were behind the mass demonstrations staged to protest Israeli actions in the 2008 Gaza war and the Global Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish affiliates were also intimately involved, along with the Turkish government, in the June 2010 Gaza flotilla that was involved in a violent altercation with Israeli naval forces. Following a period of seeming ascension related to the period of Egyptian rule by the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization was forced to scramble to try and find other state sponsors after Mohamed Morsi was deposed as President. In September 2013, it appeared that Hamas had succeeded in re-establishing close ties with Iran. In October 2013, Hamas leader political leader Khaled Mashaal (aka Kahled Meshaal) paid what was described as a “surprise visit” to Ankara in order to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.