The Palestinian local elections in the West Bank were accompanied by a new phenomenon, represented in the fact that most of the female candidates are guided to withhold their photos on advertising posters, which drew criticism from feminist institutions and activists on social media from Palestine, and the world.
Electoral campaigning began on November 27 and will continue until December 9, with the polling taking place on the 11 of the same month.
765 electoral lists are competing for the councils of 329 local bodies in the West Bank, according to data from the Central Elections Committee.
The data indicate that 277 party lists (representing a political party or coalition of parties) and 488 independent lists were registered, and the number of candidates in the lists was 6,299, including 1,599 women.
As announced by the Islamist Hamas, the propaganda posters did not publish pictures of women candidates, and replaced them with the image of a rose or the shadow of a woman; Some posters did not include the names of the female candidates too, which sparked widespread criticism, but some Hamas and PLO sponsored female candidates came forward and rejected the stance.
The feminist activist, director of the women’s affairs team in Ramallah (non-governmental), Areej Odeh, explains the phenomenon as “a tribal societal behavior that has nothing to do with religion.”
And she added, “The man does not want the picture of his wife or daughter to appear, and religion or religious currents have nothing to do with it, and there are women whose pictures have been blocked by leftist parties and others belonging to the Fatah movement,” which is led by the head of PLO, Mahmoud Abbas.
Odeh also cited another reason for this phenomenon, which is that “a large percentage of the female candidates are not real, but rather were chosen to complete the quorum of the lists, nothing more, based on the law.”
The Palestinian Local Elections Law stipulates that the electoral list must include at least two women.
Odeh criticized the phenomenon, and said: “The woman who hides her image, how can she deal directly with the community and provide them with services, how can a woman who hides her image take away women’s rights?”
Criticism through social networks
Banners are posted in all Palestinian towns included in the local elections.
Accordingly, activist Amid Dwaikat commented, on his Facebook page, saying: “The candidate in the local elections is not (unable) to put her picture on the electoral campaign, what (what) will she present to people!”
Nour Odeh, a Palestinian journalist, and writer wrote on her page, “Hey, she canceled (these are no longer) elections. This is a mockery and an attack on the status of women, their history, their struggle, and their dignity in this plagued country.”
She added: “The Election Committee is required to prevent any list that blocks the image or name of female candidates from running in the elections…what is happening is deeply flawed.”
An insult to a woman
In turn, civil society institutions registered as election monitoring bodies called on all candidate electoral lists to respect the dignity and personality of female candidates on the lists and to publish their names and pictures in electoral campaigns.
In a statement seen by The Eastern Herald, the institutions stated that “publishing pictures of women contributes to strengthening the presence of Palestinian women and their historical role in the Palestinian national struggle.”
She added, “Replacing images with symbols or slogans detracts from the role of women in political participation and insults their human dignity, and does not adhere to the special code of honor signed by the Election Commission, civil society institutions, parties, and independent figures.”
In turn, the Electoral Commission said in a statement that it “continues to block women’s photos.”
Hamas and PLO always portray women fighting against Israel and these women appear in media while protesting and throwing stones towards Israeli forces.
She added, “Although the election law is devoid of any text obligating the lists to publish pictures of female candidates in their propaganda campaigns, or in their publications on social media, the committee considers that these practices contradict the voluntary commitment agreed upon in the codes of honor and codes of conduct recently issued and signed by It must be applied to all partners in the electoral process.
On the other hand, some of the female candidates, whose photos were withheld, rejected these criticisms, considering them “bullying”.
Candidate Maram Hanani said, in an interview, that she “was bullied by society for withholding her image in the electoral campaign.”
Hanani expressed her rejection of the controversy in society over the publication of photos of the candidates, and says that she received dozens of messages on social media sites criticizing the blocking of her image, including what amounted to “bullying.”
And she adds, “The decision to block is personal, and it is an absolute freedom. I am a candidate in my village of 4,000 people, they all know me, and I am a community activist and teacher.”
She added: “My freedom is a decision, and the decision is freedom, no one can dictate what I want or do.”
Hanani is a candidate for the “Binaa and Liberation List”, affiliated with the “Fatah” movement, in the town of Beit Dajan, east of Nablus.