Hundreds of Bahraini citizens staged demonstrations on Thursday, September 30, against the visit of Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid and the opening of the Israeli embassy in capital Manama. The demonstrators expressed strong opposition to the normalization deal signed between Bahrain and Israel last year. Many Bahrainis took to social media and Twitter to circulate the hashtag #BahrainRejectsZionists in Arabic, to spread awareness about the issue and garner more support.
On the streets of Manama, protesters burnt tires to express their anger and displayed posters and placards in Arabic reading “Go out Yair”. They also chanted slogans against normalization of ties with Israel, denouncing the Bahraini regime’s actions as treasonous and an abandonment of the Palestinian cause. Some protesters also burnt the Israeli flag.
The authorities deployed additional security forces on the route to the airport, but refrained from hoisting the Israeli flag on the main roads to mark the visit. Before Lapid landed at the airport, the first commercial flight between the countries took off from Bahrain.
Lapid’s arrival on Thursday is part of the growing normalization of ties between Israel and Bahrain. The two sides signed several memorandums of understandings and bilateral agreements to increase cooperation in the economic, social and cultural fields, including sports and environmental conservation. The Israeli foreign minister also met his Bahraini counterpart, Abdullatif al-Zayani, as well as Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa.
Lapid also formally opened the Israeli embassy in Bahrain, roughly a year after the signing of the controversial normalization deal between the two countries. Besides Bahrain, the normalization deals, also known as the ‘Abraham Accords, were signed by three other countries in West Asia and Africa – the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan. At the time, these deals were highly publicized and touted as historic by the US administration of president Donald Trump. However, Palestinians and other progressive sections around the world, especially in the Arab world, condemned them as ‘opportunistic’ and a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.
A number of Bahraini civil society groups released statements denouncing Lapid’s visit and the gradual progression in ties with Israel. Sheikh Hussein al-Daih, deputy secretary-general of the opposition Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, was quoted by news outlets as saying that “the visit of the Israeli FM to Bahrain is an act firmly rejected, condemned and denounced by the people of Bahrain.”
The Bahraini National Initiative against Normalization with the Zionist Enemy, in a statement, called on the regime to immediately put an end to the ongoing normalization with Israel, and urged the Bahraini people to renew their opposition to ties with Israel and stand firmly with the Palestinian people in their struggle against the occupation.