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Contact: Ariel Gold | 510-599-5330 | email@example.com
Medea Benjamin | 415-235-6517 | firstname.lastname@example.org
September 11, 2020 — Peace group CODEPINK denounces the news that Bahrain will normalize relations with Israel. The deal, like the UAE-Israel deal that preceded it, is occurring without any substantial concessions for the Palestinians. On August 13, the Trump administration announced that it had facilitated a deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). That deal was couched in terms of Israel committing to suspend annexation of Palestinian territories. However, in his Israeli press conference announcing the deal with the UAE, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said annexation was "still on the table" and something he is "committed to."
CODEPINK wonders if, like with the UAE deal, word will soon leak that Bahrain’s deal with Israel includes U.S. weapons sales. In November 2018, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected a congressional effort led by Democrats and noninterventionist Republican Rand Paul (R-Ky) to block a $300 million weapons sales deal with Bahrain. The legislation to block the U.S. arms sale to Bahrain was brought because of growing opposition in Congress to U.S. involvement in the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen.
Like the UAE, Bahrain is a member of the Saudi-led coalition that has been leading the war in Yemen since March 2015 and has resulted in Yemen — which was already the poorest country in the Arab world — becoming the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Within a week of the deal between the UAE and Israel being signed, a secret clause revealed the U.S. is to sell tens of billions of dollars in weapons to the UAE. The U.S. weapons deal with the UAE occurred despite UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed being a shrewd Middle East dictator who uses his country's military and financial resources to thwart moves towards democracy and human rights. The UAE is mired in the war in Libya and, until recently, was one of the leaders of the brutal war in Yemen — a 2020 report by the UN’s Yemen Panel of Experts concluded that since withdrawing from Yemen, the UAE has maintained operational control of several non-state armed groups totaling around 90,000 fighters on the ground in Yemen.
“We are not fooled by this second act of fake diplomacy, which places Bahrain, alongside the UAE, as a maintainer of Israel’s status quo of land theft, home demolitions, arbitrary extrajudicial killings, apartheid laws, and other abuses of Palestinian rights,” said CODEPINK national co-director Ariel Gold. “The UAE-Israel deal with Israel was as much about U.S. weapons sales as it was about maintaining Israeli apartheid and it is likely that Bahrain’s deal with is similar.”
Bahrain is home to a U.S. naval base with 7,800 U.S. troops and its Government acts to silence criticism of the war in Yemen. In December 2018, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld a five-year prison sentence against human rights defender Nabeel Rajab for a tweet critical of Bahrain’s involvement in the war in Yemen. Nasser bin Hamad, son of Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, is a leader of the Saudi coalition’s ground forces in Yemen and has been directly implicated in allegations of torturing dissidents. After pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in 2011, Nasser bin Hamad used his position as the head of Bahrain’s National Olympic Committee to form a special commission to identify and punish over 150 members of the sporting community who had participated in the pro-democracy protests.
According to a 2020 Human Rights Watch report, Bahrain’s human rights abuses worsened in 2019; the Bahraini government carried out an enormous number of executions for peaceful expression and punished Bahrainis who criticized their government on social media.
“This second ‘historic deal’ in less than a month by a Gulf state does not move the Middle East any closer to peace,” said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin. “On the contrary, it strengthens the Israel-US-Gulf alliance against Iran, which will further inflame tensions and cause more death and suffering while maintaining Israel’s status quo of occupation and apartheid and filling the coffers of U.S. weapons companies. All of this is despite Donald Trump claiming that he is an antiwar candidate — what a farce!”
The normalization of relations between Israel and Bahrain and UAE, facilitated by the U.S., serves to prop up repressive leaders guilty of appalling human rights abuses. It will cause further harm to Palestinians and Yemenis while raising the profits of U.S. weapons companies even further. It is both a shame and a sham.
CODEPINK Middle East Director Ariel Gold is available for interviews.