Sunday, February 15, 2009

Another intransigent, extremist Arab country

Similar to the example I gave today from Yemen, Bahrain is another country whose attitudes towards Israel would be considered "extremist" and "intransigent" if Israel applied the same attitudes towards any Arab country. But instead, it is regarded as "moderate" and "friendly."

From NewsBlaze:
The Bahrain government has denied accusations by non-governmental organisations that it was moving towards normalising ties with Israel.

The government has faced sharp criticism from NGOs and human rights group since the Israeli air raids in the Gaza Strip this year. The word on the street is since the tiny island is a close US ally; the authorities would not consider opening the Israeli boycott office which was shut down in 2006.

But the government maintained its stance and said there was no need for the office to be reopened as it said laws and regulations forbid public organisations from violating ban on Israeli goods. This was stated in a letter responding to a bill in parliament which called for Anti Normalisation with the Zionists and reopening the office.

Bahrain has no ties with Israeli and has always reacted sharply from calling off Israeli goods in supermarkets to launching a petition calling for reopening the Israeli boycott office.

The Bahrain Society against Normalisation with the Zionist Enemy has collected over 200 hundred signatures to re-open the office.

Abdulla Malik, general secretary of the society said, "The office was set up in 1963 in Bahrain. It was closed after Bahrain signed the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US in 2004. We want the office to be re-opened to ban Israeli goods, as by closing it we are sending signs of diplomatic ties with killers."

The Bahrain Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa told Pan- Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview that US never asked them to normalise relations with Israel.

Perhaps, but the US did say that the Bahrain boycott of Israel was illegal under the US-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement:
Separate from the FTA obligations, Bahrain confirmed in a letter that it did not apply the “secondary” and “tertiary” boycotts against Israel and stated that it recognized the need to terminate the “primary” boycott of Israel imposed by the Arab League states in 1963. The “primary” boycott prohibits direct trade between Israel and the Arab nations. It is not clear whether this statement is legally binding, though the USTR has claimed that it is binding. The commitment is not enforceable under the Agreement. The “secondary” boycott blacklists companies that do business in Israel, while the “tertiary” boycott applies to companies that have relationships with companies that operate in Israel. Bahrain theoretically has not enforced the “secondary” and “tertiary” boycotts on Israel since 1994, though periodically, Bahraini government documents contain language related to these boycotts.

The boycott decision has been controversial in Bahrain and has led to a strong backlash against the Bahrain FTA – the lower chamber of Bahrain’s Parliament (the House of Deputies) voted overwhelmingly to oppose lifting the boycott. However, this vote was largely symbolic as the Government of Bahrain stands by its statement that it intends to lift the boycott.

The Administration agreed in the Statement of Administrative Action for the Bahrain Act to report on Bahrain’s progress in dismantling its boycott of Israel.
Since the US and Bahrain concluded the agreement, trade between the two countries has increased by over 50% . Perhaps it is time for the US to revisit how well Bahrain is sticking to its side of the bargain?