2022 Portfolios: Bahrainis Resist Normalization in Streets, Restaurants, and Prisons

2023-12-08 - 1:16 p

Bahrain Mirror (2022 Portfolios): Throughout the year 2022, Bahrain experienced a surge of Bahraini-Israeli normalization events and visits. During this time, the government aimed to make normalization with Israel an inevitable reality, even resorting to threats and pressuring employees to be present during Israeli delegations, as seen with doctors at Salmaniya Hospital.

Bahrain escalated its normalization efforts beyond diplomatic protocols and visits, appointing Israeli Anat Ronen to the Economic Development Board. Additionally, an attempt was made to infiltrate Bahraini society with the opening of "Rosemarine," a restaurant owned by Israelis on Budaiya Street - a vibrant location that witnessed robust anti-normalization activities.

Despite government efforts, popular rejection of normalization in Bahrain was resounding. This led to Bahrain being labeled as an unsafe destination for Israelis and the cancellation of an event planned in Manama at the end of the year coinciding with the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

Ominous Visits:

Hardly a month would pass in 2022 without Bahrain hosting Israeli officials or delegations. There was an active diplomatic movement involving the Israeli ambassador engaging with various ministries and government bodies. Early in the year, Bahrain News Agency announced a call between the Bahraini Minister of Interior and his Israeli counterpart to discuss "cooperation," highlighting the security importance of normalization by the authorities.

However, the most prominent visits were made by Israeli War Minister Benny Gantz, who came to Bahrain in February in an unannounced visit and met with the Bahraini Defense Affairs Minister, the Army Chief, Crown Prince, and the King. This was followed by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's visit in which he met with the Bahrain's King and Crown Prince. These visits continued with Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi in March and culminated with Israeli President Isaac Herzog's visit in December.

Between these visits, the Bahraini government continued normalization efforts across various levels. Bahrain's Foreign Minister participated in a meeting in the occupied Negev alongside normalizing Arab foreign ministers, the U.S. Secretary of State, and the Israeli Foreign Minister. The Israelis sent delegations to Bahrain in many fields like education and health, leading to Israeli delegations visiting the University of Bahrain during an academic exhibition in which delegations from other countries participated. In response, the Kuwaiti academic delegation withdrew, refusing to participate alongside Israeli representatives. An Israeli medical delegation visited Salmaniya Hospital, seemingly forcing Bahraini doctors to be present under threats from high-ranking officials.

Bahrainis Reject Normalization:

Despite government pressure to normalize the practice of normalization with the Zionist entity, Bahrainis vehemently expressed their rejection at various levels. Mass protests filled the streets and roads of Bahrain throughout the year, particularly during significant occasions like the International Quds Day (Last Friday of the Month of Ramadan), in response to the desecration of Al-Aqsa Mosque in April, and after the martyrdom of journalist Shereen Abu Akleh. Additionally, protests flared before announced visits by Israeli officials to Bahrain.

Official statements and positions emerged from influential figures such as Shiite scholar Sayed Abdullah Al-Ghuraifi, the Friday preachers at the Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque in Diraz (Sheikh Muhammad Sanqour and Sheikh Ali Al-Sadadi), in addition to the stances made by prominent religious figures through joint statements or through personal accounts on social media platforms.

Civil society organizations, including those who are government-leaning, expressed anti-normalization stances through the "National Initiative against Normalization," issuing periodic statements expressing rejection of any normalization moves. The Bahraini Society Against Normalization also continued its work by monitoring and criticizing any normalization step.

Even Bahraini prisoners held for political reasons voiced their rejection of normalization. Notably, prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja protested within the prison yard, raising slogans against Israel and rejecting the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to Bahrain.

Opposition from abroad echoed loudly, with the spiritual leader of the Bahraini Shia majority, Sheikh Isa Qassim, and the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society leading the way. They issued statements and organized events against normalization, mainly the "Day of Betrayal" event. Other opposition groups and individuals abroad also voiced their rejection of normalization.

Outcomes of Rejecting Normalization:

The consequences of rejecting normalization in Bahrain went beyond expressing popular disdain. It rather led to tangible changes on the ground on more than one occasion. Rosemarine, the Israeli-owned restaurant on Budaiya Street, closed its doors within a month due to widespread popular boycotts. Israeli President Isaac Herzog's visit to Bahrain was shortened, and the schedule was adjusted to minimize interaction with protesters, as reported by Haaretz. Late in the year, protests in Manama led to the cancellation of a planned Hanukkah celebration in the capital.

While the Bahraini government remained committed to normalization and hailed each step, the public's resolute rejection reached Israel directly. The Israeli National Security Council labeled Bahrain as one of the most dangerous countries for Israeli travelers, and reports aired by the Israeli military channel indicated concerns about the safety of Israeli travelers to several countries, including Bahrain.

Government Anger at Normalization Rejection:

The government's frustration with rejection of normalization manifested in the dismissal of Mai bint Mohammed, the head of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, who refused to receive any Israeli official since the announcement of normalization two years prior. High-level government orders indefinitely postponed the general assembly of the Bahraini Society Against Normalization. The intense security presence during year-end protests against the planned Hanukkah celebration in Manama disrupted citizens' movement. Moreover, authorities leveled new charges against prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is sentenced to life imprisonment, for insulting the Israeli entity by raising anti-Israel slogans in the prison yard.

The year 2022 concluded with the Israeli entity failing to gain new friends in the region. While diplomatic, security, and military relations were established with Bahrain, the Israelis struggled to penetrate Bahraini society and faced clear and stern rejection from the people on any given occasion.

Arabic Version


المصدر: Bahrain Mirror
رابط الموضوع: http://www.bahrainmirror.com/en/news/63946.html