Meet the women of the Knesset’s Joint List


Iman Khatib Yassin

writes in Al-Monitor:

Women have not fared well in the recently instated Knesset. All the major parties are currently led by men. The number of women in the Knesset has decreased from 35 to 30, and women make up only 25% of the overall elected members of the Knesset.

Yet women in the Arab Joint List have done well: Out of the Joint List’s 15 members, four are women — double the two in the previous Knesset.  The Joint List is made up of four different parties running together as a bloc, and each party has one woman member.

Aida Touma-Sliman, 55, represents Hadash, the Communist Party. She studied psychology and Arabic literature at Haifa University, and was the founder of Women Against Violence, the first Arab feminist group against domestic violence. She also served editor-in-chief of al-Ittihad, the Communist Party’s Arabic-language newspaper.  Hadash focuses on creating a socialist economy and promoting workers’ rights. Touma-Sliman is the only one of the four women who served in the previous Knesset, where she was chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality. A prominent opponent of the occupation, she has also made a name for herself as an outspoken, sometimes strident, champion of women’s rights, including those of Jewish ultra-Orthodox and religious Zionist women, even though she is an atheist.

“I may not know much about religion,” she told Al-Monitor, “but I know a lot about the patriarchy, so I support the rights of all women.”

Sandus Salech, 34, is the youngest member of the entire Knesset. She represents Ta’al, a secular party that focuses on social issues within Israel and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. She holds a bachelor’s in education and a master’s in technology and education from the Technion. She has been a teacher and a CEO of a technology startup. Her academic research focuses on obstacles to the advancement of women in the technology field.  “Having four women is progress and a lever for advancing women in Arab society,” she told Al-Monitor, “but it isn’t enough. And I hope that the men won’t think that because we are four women, they won’t have to pay attention to women’s rights, because women’s rights are everyone’s rights.”

But most of the attention in the Israeli Hebrew press is on Iman Khatib-Yassin, 56, a member of the United Arab list, and Heba Yazbak, 35, a representative of far-left Balad, which believes that Israel should be “a state of all its citizens” and advocates the right of return for Palestinian refugees.  Khatib-Yassin holds a bachelor’s in social work from Tel Aviv University and is a graduate of the prestigious Mandel Leadership Institute.

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