King announces end to travel ban of Bahraini citizens to Israel, condemns Arab boycott of Israel; King writes and signs document calling for religious freedom and protection for all faiths in the Middle East (Photo: CC), September 18, 2017.
The King of Bahrain openly condemned the Arab boycott of Israel and announced that his people are free to visit the Jewish State.
He made the historic announcement over the weekend when speaking to Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles at a multi-faith event in Los Angeles. She reported that the King spoke of “shifting relations” between Arab states with Israel, announcing the lift of the travel ban to Israel for the first time in Bahrain’s history and officially condemning the Arab boycott of the Jewish State.
The King not only made history by breaking the travel ban to Israel, but was also the first Arab Head of State to compose, write and sponsor a document calling for religious freedom and protection for all religious affiliations in the Middle East. The document, entitled “The Bahrain Declaration on Religious Tolerance” calls for “people of all faiths to show respect for, and protection of, the rights of everyone to practice their religious affiliations in dignity and peace.”
Representatives at the event from Egypt, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates and Malaysia all reportedly stood when Israel’s national anthem “Hatikva” was played, Arab nations representatives until now typically refusing to stand for Israel’s anthem.
The historic move for Bahrain comes following reports that Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister reportedly visited Israel and met with Israeli officials in secret two weeks ago. Initial reports from Arab media surfaced of a Saudi prince having visited Israel in secret two weeks ago, reports last week claiming that Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is the current defense minister and future heir to the throne, was in Israel for a meeting(s) with Israeli officials.
The meeting was reportedly centered on Arab initiatives to resume the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, the meeting likely also focusing on the threat Iran poses to the region. According to media reports “A prince from the Royal Court visited the country [Israel] in secret over the past few days and discussed the idea of pushing regional peace forward with a number of senior Israeli officials. The prime minister and Foreign Ministry offices refused to comment on this matter.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has been vocal on the shift in relations of Arab states with Israel, highlighting this development during each visit with heads of states during his Latin America tour. Following a meeting with Columbian President Santos last week, he stated “Israel has created new relations between Israel and the Arab states, which no longer see Israel as an enemy but as an essential ally against these forces who seek to bring humanity back from a brilliant future to a barbaric one,” referring to Iran and radical Islam.
Consistent with all meetings held with heads of state over the past four months, the Prime Minister addressed Iran and Islamic global terrorism, referring to Iran’s “sending its terrorist wings in all directions, including to Latin America,” and adding that “We believe that all countries should unite, just as Israel cooperates with the Arab states in order to prevent the spread of Iranian aggression and terrorism to other continents.”
The same week Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Israel, Netanyahu stated “What is actually happening with the Arab states has never happened in our history, even when we signed agreements. Cooperation between Israel and Arab states exists in various ways and different levels, though it still is not visible above the surface. There is much more than during any other period in the history of Israel. This is a tremendous change. The entire world is changing.”
The document, entitled “The Bahrain Declaration on Religious Tolerance” has five main sections. They are:
- Religious Faith and Expression: We celebrate that religion has been amongst the greatest forces of good in our world, and has principally inspired people to share that same good with their fellow man.
- Freedom of Choice: We recognize that God instructs us to exercise the divine gift of freedom of choice, and therefore we declare that compelled religion cannot bring a person into a meaningful relationship with God.
- The Determination of God’s Will: We acknowledge that religions may disagree with each other in interpreting God’s will, yet all enlightened religions reject invoking His name to legitimize violence against innocent people. It is a clear desecration of His name, rather than a fulfillment of His will.
- Religious Rights and Responsibilities: We acknowledge that God expects more of those in positions of spiritual and temporal authority. People of all faiths should be accorded the right to congregate to worship, educate, celebrate, and practice the requirements of their respective faiths.
- The Hope of Faith: We pledge to teach our children and demonstrate to them by example that by performing simple acts of kindness and compassion we are acting upon God’s command that we invoke His good into the world.