The Electronic Intifada / December 16, 2019
A delegation of a major Israel lobby group visited Bahrain last week.
Bahrain’s interior minister, Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, received a delegation from the American Jewish Committee, which was headed by their chief policy and political affairs officer Jason Isaacson.
The delegation also met with Abdulla bin Faisal Al Doseri, Bahrain’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, in his office.
The AJC presented Bahrain with an award in September for being “opening and welcoming” towards the Israel lobby group.
Jerusalem chief rabbi in Bahrain
AJC’s visit comes during the same week Shlomo Moshe Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Jerusalem, participated in a religious conference in Manama.
The conference was convened under the auspices of the King Hamad International Center for Peaceful Coexistence, an initiative of the “interfaith” organization This is Bahrain. The latter has ties to the pro-Israel, evangelical US presidential adviser, Johnnie Moore.
Amar reportedly met with Bahrain’s king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and conveyed to him “a blessing from Jerusalem that will lead to a solid relationship with the state of Israel.”
Bahrain hosted the director of the regional security and counterterrorism department at Israel’s foreign ministry in October.
Dana Benvenisti-Gabay took part in the Working Group on Maritime and Aviation Security in Manama, which is co-hosted by the US, Poland and Bahrain.
Lebanese resistance organization Hizballah denounced the participation of a Lebanese figure and the conference as a whole, which the movement said was simply a covert attempt at normalizing regional relations with Israel.
Religious leaders from Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt and other Arab countries were also present.
The Bahraini government “practices the most heinous repression towards the oppressed Bahraini people,” Hizballah’s statement continued, but then “tries to cover up its lost legitimacy by turning Bahrain into a platform to be exploited by the US administration and the Zionist enemy.”
Such normalization “ignores” Israel’s killing and maiming of the Lebanese and Palestinian people, Hizballah added.
Israel has no formal diplomatic relations with any Arab countries, with the exception of Jordan and Egypt.
The United States has been pushing certain Gulf states to sign “non-belligerence pacts” with Israel, a kind of interim on the way to full diplomacy.
What would once have shocked Arab publics is now becoming routine as Gulf states race each other to embrace Israel under the patronage of Saudi Arabia and in reaction to a perceived shared Iran threat.
The emirate even donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to some of the most extreme pro-Israel organizations in the United States.
It seems that Gulf states are preparing to ease their populations into accepting formal ties with Israel by normalizing the presence and image of Israel through cooperation in sectors such as sports and technology.
In recent years, Israel’s national anthem has been played multiple times in the UAE and Qatar and Israeli athletes participate regularly in international tournaments in those countries.
But it was perhaps the US-sponsored June conference, organized by US presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, in Manama that featured the most unprecedented manifestations of warmth between Israel and Gulf governments.
In 2017, Bahrain’s king denounced the Arab boycott of Israel and declared that citizens of his Gulf nation are now allowed to visit Israel.
“Our participation gives an extraordinary opportunity to showcase our capabilities and achievements,” Israeli foreign minister Yisrael Katz tweeted.
Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada