Jewish visitors to Bahrain may face anti-Semitic backlash
Despite signing the Abraham Accords in 2020, and the deepening of relations between Bahrain and Israel, anti-Semitism remains pervasive in the small Gulf Island nation. Israeli tourists should exercise caution when visiting or doing business in Bahrain.
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has launched an initiative to dedicate a Jewish Quarter in the capital city of Manama to demonstrate the country’s hospitality to Israelis and Jews from around the world, as well as for the small community of Jewish Bahrainis who represent one of the only local Jewish populations in the Gulf. Jews in Bahrain were only allowed to worship openly last year, when their historical synagogue was finally renovated and reopened after 74 years. However, even these modest gestures of tolerance have elicited tirades of anti-Semitic hyperbole from opposition figures who claim that the planned Jewish neighbourhood is part of a Zionist conspiracy to “Judaize” Bahrain.
These vitriolic voices cannot be dismissed, as there are indications that even members of the royal family carry resentment over Bahrain’s peace agreement with Israel, and influential Shia religious leaders are calling for the government to be toppled. Although the stability of the regime is perhaps higher than it has been in a decade, public discontent could conceivably be directed towards Jews in the country, particularly Israeli citizens.
While signing the Abraham Accords was certainly a progressive step for Bahrain, visitors should be aware that the country is still profoundly oppressive. Police often act with impunity and the judiciary lacks meaningful independence. Tourists, investors, and expats – particularly Jews and Israelis – should be cognizant of the serious risks they may face in Bahrain.