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Bahrain abruptly intervenes to halt pro-Palestine discussion on Israel normalisation

Ties between the Gulf states and Israel have been warming in recent years [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 May, 2020

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Bahraini authorities have been criticised after abruptly intervening to stop an anti-Israel normalisation discussion online, amid warming ties between the Gulf state and Israel.
Bahraini authorities intervened to halt a youth-led online discussion on resisting normalisation with Israel, Arabi21 reported.

The seminar, organised by the pro-Palestine Democratic Youth Anti-Normalisation Association, brought together guests from Palestine, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to discuss ways to mobilise against growing normalisation with Israel.

The event - which was held online amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic - was cancelled due to an intervention from "official authorities" just half a minute and a half into the call, the director of the group said.

"Just moments ago we received a call from official authorities to cancel this discussion. We apologise and hope to meet again during future events," the director, Hadeel Kamal al-Deen said in the recording which has been shared online.

Like most Arab countries, Bahrain does not have diplomatic ties with Israel but has unofficially moved closer in recent years.

However, Gulf states, which share Israel's enmity towards Iran, have made a number of recent moves hinting at warmer ties with Israel.

Bahrain's move comes amid rising concern and criticism of perceived state-initiated campaigns across the economic, religious and cultural spheres to encourage warmer relations with Israel.

Pro-Palestine activists fear these steps could pave the way for fully normalised diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Most recently, a popular Ramadan series broadcast on the kingdom's MBC channel last week attacked Palestinians and encouraged business ties with Israel.

The series "Exit 7" sees superstar Saudi actors Nasser Al-Qasabi and Rashid Al-Shamrani discussing dealing with Israelis for business expansion purposes.

Al-Qasabi's character shuts down the debate noting "Israelis are enemies", only to be told "the real enemy is the one who shows no gratitude for your stance, dismisses your sacrifices and curses you day and night, more than the Israelis".

Al-Shamrani’s character continues to say: "We entered wars for the sake of Palestine, we cut oil for Palestine and the day it became an authority, we paid its salaries even though we [the Saudi people]  have more right over this money. Yet they take every opportunity to attack Saudi Arabia."

The clip was quickly shared across social media platforms, sparking outrage over its heavy-handed attempt to manipulate the minds of millions of Saudis in line with the leadership's ongoing bid to normalise relations with Israel.

"This is just part of the growing systemic discourse adopted by the advocates of Israeli normalisation in the 'new' Saudi Arabia," Palestinian author and media professor Dr Nawaf Tamimi told The New Arab, noting that the inclusion of the debate in a popular Ramadan series is a deliberate and calculated attempt to reach the masses.

Saudi Arabia quickly scrambled to quell uproar on Tuesday, reaffirming that the Palestinian cause was still a "central issue" for Arabs and Muslims.

In February, a US-Jewish umbrella group sent a delegation on an official visit to Saudi Arabia, Israeli media reported, adding that the trip was believed to be the first since 1993.

In-depth: WATCH: Saudi Ramadan series blasted for attacking 'ungrateful' Palestinians and promoting 'normal relations' with Israel

The visit came as Riyadh continued to deny normalisation with Israel, dismissing reports that its crown prince had plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The premier visited Oman in 2018 and caused outrage after meeting with Sudanese leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan earlier this year.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation called the meeting "a stab in the back of the Palestinian people".

Egypt and Jordan are so far the only Arab states to have full diplomatic relations with Israel.

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