Bahrain expat group seeks Israeli help to improve kingdom's image
A pro-government advocacy group in Bahrain has signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the controversial Israel-linked Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) in order to change the image of the country as a hotspot of human rights abuses.
The ‘This Is Bahrain’ campaign, a 200-member delegation from the country currently touring America, stated that the agreement was designed to improve the perception of the country abroad.
“We are set to work closely together to change negative media perception of the situation in Bahrain and to use the Bahrain model of centuries-old religious freedom, peaceful co-existence and mutual respect in the fight against global terrorism,” said Betsy Mathieson, secretary-general of the Bahrain Federation of Expatriate Associations, a pro-government organisation based in Bahrain.
“Bahrain suffered unfairly from negative media reports and ‘This is Bahrain’ looks forward to working closely with MEMRI, which does an outstanding job on many fronts.”
The revelation is likely to prove controversial in Bahrain, which does not formally recognise Israel and where popular support for the Palestinian cause is very high.
MEMRI has been described as an “Israeli propaganda outfit” and as having an agenda to “find the worst possible quotes from the Muslim world and disseminate them as widely as possible," by former Guardian Middle East editor Brian Whitaker.
Founded by Yigal Carmon, a former Israeli military official and counter-terrorism advisor to Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, the organisation describes its aim as bridging “the language gap between the West and the Middle East and South Asia.”
The organisation frequently releases translated clips from Arab media outlets, often highlighting anti-Semitic comments from politicians, activists and religious figures.
Bahrain has itself been the target of MEMRI a number of times - a clip from April 2014, for example, shows a Bahrain cleric warning his congregation that Jews and Christians were trying to destroy the “beautiful, close-knit fabric of the family”.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, criticised the This Is Bahrain campaign’s attempts to “whitewash” the actions of the kingdom.
"Rather than resolving its dire political and economic issues, Bahrain wastes its resources on PR to whitewash those issues,” he said.
“The unscrupulous relationship with a Zionist organisation pushing anti-Arab messages reflects Bahrain's self-satisfying priorities."
Alberto M. Fernandez, Vice-President of MEMRI, contacted Middle East Eye denying the reports, saying that MEMRI had "not signed, nor do we intend to sign any Memorandum of Understanding with Bahrain or a supposed Bahrain NGO.”
Since the beginning of the Arab Spring protests in 2011, demonstrations in the country have been frequent with most activists calling for increased democratic rights and some even calling for the overthrow of the Khalifa monarchy.
More than 100 people have been killed since 2011, while numerous arrests of protestors and opposition leaders has left the country with the second-highest prison population in the Middle East.
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Since the beginning of the Arab Spring protests in 2011, demonstrations in Bahrain have been frequent with most activists calling for increased democratic rights and some calling for the overthrow of the Khalifa monarchy.
More than 100 people have been killed since 2011 and thousands of people imprisoned for taking part in pro-democracy protests.