A Bahraini institute has signed an agreement with the US State Department to combat antisemitism, anti-Zionism and delegitimisation of Israel.
The memorandum of understanding, signed Thursday in Washington, D.C., marks the first time an Arab country has embraced a key Trump administration agenda item, to get countries to include anti-Zionism and some forms of harsh criticism of Israel in their definitions of antisemitism.
It comes as the Trump administration has in recent weeks brokered a series of normalisation agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
It was signed at a ceremony in a downtown Washington hotel by Elan Carr, the State Department’s antisemitism monitor, and Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s extended royal family who is the chairman of the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence.
“We all know that hatred is the enemy of peace,” Khalifa said at the signing ceremony.
The memorandum of understanding says the sides “intend to work together to share and promote best practices for combating all forms of antisemitism, including anti-Zionism and delegitimisation of the State of Israel.”
It also accepts the definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which includes double standards in criticising Israel, denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and comparing Israeli actions to the Nazis. Some civil liberties groups in the United States and abroad say the definition is too broad and, when adopted as part of enforceable law, inhibits speech freedoms.
The agreement signed Thursday is well short of the legislative adoption of the IHRA definition that the Trump administration has sought from countries, and that has been adopted by a number of US state governments, with the backing of some pro-Israel organisations. The Bahrain memorandum outlines only educational programs and does not include enforcement language.
The institute that al Khalifa runs, which mostly builds goodwill with other faiths and nations, does not appear to be connected to any Bahraini body that would enforce the definition.
Still, the significance of a Muslim Arab country that not long ago would not formally recognise Israel now signalling its willingness to educate its population about the value of a Jewish state was not lost on Carr, who is of Iraqi Jewish origin, or his deputy, Ellie Cohanim, who was born in Iran.
“As a child, I had to flee my homeland of Iran with my family to escape the Islamic revolution of 1979 that brought into power this despotic regime which to this day oppresses the people of Iran with the most appalling human rights record,” Cohanim said at the signing ceremony. “My story is the story of almost 1 million Jews, all indigenous to the Middle East, all who love their homelands.”
Carr also described the longing Jews for Arab lands feel for their homelands. “I come from a heritage that lived for millennia, with Arabs and with Muslims and flourished in the Middle East,” he said. “We who come from that region, understand that there were wonderful periods, not only of tolerance but of true affection.”
Some 44 parliaments or governments have adopted the IHRA definition, most recently on Thursday Albania, a secular nation with a Muslim majority.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.