Bedouin women’s activist who backed polygamy joins Ya’alon’s Telem

Ex-defense chief’s party denies Amal Abo Alqom supports plural marriages, after clip surfaces in which she said she wouldn’t mind her husband taking a second wife

Amal Abo Alqom, resident of the Bedouin village of Segev Shalom and founder of the non-profit Women for Themselves. (Shmuel Bar-Am)
Amal Abo Alqom, resident of the Bedouin village of Segev Shalom and founder of the non-profit Women for Themselves. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Ex-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon on Thursday announced his Telem party’s latest pickup, an activist for Bedouin women who has voiced approval of polygamy.

Ya’alon hailed Amal Abo Alqom as a “pioneering social activist in the field of advancing women’s rights in Bedouin society.” Abo Alqom, from the Negev village of Segev Shalom, founded a nonprofit that works to empower Bedouin girls.

“The values that Amal advances express the values that the Telem party believes in and she will have a significant part in our fight for creating a more unified and equal society,” Ya’alon wrote on Twitter.

Shortly after the announcement, a video clip surfaced of a 2014 interview in which Abo Alqom said she wouldn’t oppose her husband marrying a second wife.

“Other women and girls and myself, when we come and say we’re in favor of the idea of marrying a second woman, it’s on the condition that the man is fair and respects the first and second wives,” she said in the interview.

She also said polygamous marriages should be documented in accordance with Sharia law and not only verbal.

In 2017, Abo Alqom said she was not “for or against” polygamy in an interview with The Times of Israel, and defended the practice because it was mandated in the Qur’an.

First and foremost, she said, “It is a rule from God given to us by the Qur’an.”

“No law can prevent me from something God gave me,” she added.

Yet aside from its alleged divine origin, she argued polygamy was a way to protect women.

“Polygamy ensures that women are given rights under a legal framework,” she said, rather than “girlfriends in affairs” who don’t inherit God-given rights. She did admit that most girls naturally want to be the only wife.

She said in her own polygamous birth household, everyone got along, and that is generally the case with most.

Above: Abo Alqom speaks with The Times of Israel in 2017.

After the 2014 interview surfaced on Thursday, Telem denied she supported or encouraged polygamy.

“We reject any effort to besmirch her and her important work,” the party said in a statement.

The announcement came several weeks after Ya’alon named lawyer Ayman Abu Raiya as one of Telem’s candidates for the March 23 general elections, before dropping the pick hours later after it emerged Abu Raiya was under investigation for suspected bribery.

Other figures to join the party so far include former Blue and White minister Izhar Shay, epidemiologist and ex-chief of the doctors union Hagai Levine and anti-Netanyahu protest leader Gonen Ben Yitzhak.

Moshe Ya’alon during a visit to the Vered Yeriho observation point in the Judean Desert, January 21, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Ya’alon earlier this month ended his alliance with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. Telem has not been forecast to enter the Knesset if it runs alone, though Channel 13 news reported Tuesday that he was in “advanced negotiations” with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s The Israelis on a joint run.

Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff, entered the Knesset with Likud in 2009. He quit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in 2016 when Avigdor Liberman was offered the Defense Ministry post — then held by Ya’alon — as part of a coalition agreement. In 2019 and 2020, his Telem party ran as part of the centrist Blue and White, but he and Lapid split with Defense Minister Benny Gantz over his decision to join a government led by Netanyahu.

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