Rasha Atamny, a 31-year-old Palestinian born in a small Arab town, has been appointed Israel’s first secretary at its Turkish embassy in Ankara, the first time the country has sent a Muslim woman to represent it abroad.
Atamny will occupy a senior post at a mission responsible for nurturing one of the country’s most fragile relationships. Last year, Israel and Turkey signed a reconciliation agreement that tentatively ended a six-year diplomatic breakdown caused by the IDF’s military operation against a Turkish-sponsored humanitarian flotilla destined for Gaza.
Born in Baqa al-Gharbiya, a town of fewer than 30,000 on Israeli side of the West Bank border, Atamny studied psychology at Hebrew University, before being accepted on the hyper-competitive three-year Foreign Ministry cadet course alongside 21 of her contemporaries.
In a blog written while she was still completing her course, Atamny said that her decision to become a diplomat came from a three-month volunteering stint at the Israeli mission at the UN.
“One turning point will always stay with me: one day, I sat down in my usual seat in the human rights committee, and listened with great interest to a discussion taking place on women’s rights violations,” Atamny wrote in Hebrew.
“At this point, I had gotten used to the continuous barrage of accusations leveled against Israel by many countries on the council… The discrimination against Israel in the UN is very obvious and disappointing. But this time it was different. This time I listened to speeches by Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Egypt, all decrying the ‘systematic women’s rights violations’ by Israel, while I, an Arab, Muslim Palestinian origin, represent Israel at the UN Human Rights Council.”
“That day at the UN made me desperately disappointed and pushed me to take matters into my own hands, to try and at least object in thought to the systemic conduct carried out in the international arena against Israel.”
Atamny’s Twitter account, which has recently been closed but remains cached, strikes a similar pro-government tone, attacking supporters of the BDS campaign, which she says is about “eliminating Israel” and defending the controversial lemonade-making machine manufacturer Sodastream.
Israel has previously appointed Christians and male Muslims to foreign role, as well as female Muslims to Foreign Ministry jobs inside the country, but never abroad.
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