Atef Ibrahim Mohammad Adwan (عاطف محمد إبراهيم عدوان) (also spelled Odwan, Udwan or Edwan) (nom de Guerre Abu-Sharif, his eldest son) is the Minister of Refugees in the Palestinian Authority, having been named to this position following the Hamas victory in the Palestinian legislative election, 2006, when he was elected from the Northern Gaza District.
Adwan was born in 1952 in the town of Beit Hanoun where he still resides in the far north of the Gaza Strip to a well educated family. He earned a higher diploma in political science in Lebanon, probably in the early 1970s, a bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of Economics and Political Sciences in Cairo in 1978, followed by a graduate diploma from the Center for Arab Research and Studies at the Arab University, and masters and a Ph.D. from British universities between 1983 and 1987. He became an associate professor in 1996 and a professor in political science in 2001 at the Islamic University in Gaza City. In addition to his political posts, he is acting chairman of the Islamic Society in Beit Hanoun, preaches weekly at the Omar Bin Abed Al-Aziz mosque, and has published numerous books and research papers on political issues such as the relationships between the Jews and the Muslims in the early stages of Islam. He is also the chairman of the Future Research Centre in the Gaza Strip conducting polls and surveys in the Palestinian Political realm.
Adwan has been arrested several times by the Israeli government for alleged terrorist activities and the PLO-led Palestinian Authority for political activism through the years. In 1992 he was deported to Marj Al-Zuhour in Southern Lebanon where he wrote a book entitled "Marj Al-Zuhour Diary."
In almost every recent Israeli invasion of Beit Hanoun, Atef's house was subject to search by Israeli Defence Army.
Adwan has been a spokesman for a moderating voice within Hamas, having said among other things that the terms outlined by Israel at the Taba Summit was something Hamas would seriously think about; claiming that while Sharia would be the main source of Palestinian law, "you can't have a stream that goes against the world” (The Economist, February 2, 2006). He has opposed financial support from Iran on the grounds that it would make the Palestinian Authority a client of Iranian policy (The Jerusalem Post, February 22, 2006).
Granted an entry visa by Sweden in 2006, Adwan visited a number of European countries under the provision of the Schengen Agreement, often at the displeasure of the host countries. While in Sweden, he met with Moishe Arye Friedman, a noted anti-Zionist rabbi.
In Norway he was invited by former Prime Minister Kåre Willoch to a private luncheon at Det Norske Selskab. Willoch commented that "A dialogue with Hamas is very useful."
Dr. Adwan had a fallout with President Abbas and the Fatah movement towards the end of last year that threatened his position as a minster in the Palestinian National Authority. He called the Fatah revolutionary parliament "Old Geeks" and accused the president of obeying America and Israel and not taking the interests of his people at heart.
Dr. Adwan's main concerns are the status of Palestinian refugees in Iraq where they are subjected to violence by the Shiite extremists throughout Iraq. He has travelled to Syria where he met with Syrian and Iraqi officials to address the issue and recently the Palestinian Legislative Council tried to pass a bill to bring a number of Palestinian refugees in Iraq back to Gaza, a step that Israel will certainly oppose.