Bahrain jails man who burned Israeli flag

A Bahraini man who burned an Israeli flag during a pro-Palestine protest has been jailed for three years.

The pro-government Al-Bilad website confirmed that the Supreme Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by the man who was convicted of organising an illegal gathering and rioting.

At a pro-Palestinian demonstration last May, the defendant along with 10 other people blocked streets at the entrance to the village of Abu Saiba by setting a fire in the middle of the road and then burning an Israeli flag, Bahraini media reported.

The court upheld the three-year sentence and said the man “intended to endanger people’s lives and properties, to destabilise public security and to disrupt traffic.”

Observers have claimed that this is the first time in the history of the Arab world that a person has been punished for burning the Israeli flag.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph in July 2019

Bahrain, like other Gulf countries, has no official diplomatic relations with Israel but in recent years there has been an unofficial thawing of relations. Manama and Tel Aviv have a shared interest in countering Iran.

Last December Jerusalem Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar made a rare visit to Bahrain where he met the Arab kingdom’s king, as well as religious leaders from around the Middle East as well as other countries around the world.

In October 2019, Foreign Ministry official Dana Benvenisti-Gabay attended a security conference in Bahrain in a rare formal visit.

And Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa told The Times of Israel that “Israel is a country in the region… and it’s there to stay, of course.”

Saeed Shehabi, of the Bahrain Freedom Movement, told 5Pillars that Bahrain is the most vocal Arab nation which defends Israel.

“All you have to do is to google ‘Bahrain and Israel’ to find proof of the ties between the two countries,” he said. “The Bahraini Foreign Minister appeared on Israeli TV recently and there was a recent high-profile visit by the Zionist lobby to Bahrain. Israel has also been involved in helping the regime suppress protests and the Arab Spring.”

But he added: “The regime is one thing and the people is another. The Bahraini people are pro-Palestine which was proved by their opposition on the streets to the Deal of the Century. But Israel is working with Arab countries like Bahrain to stamp out any pro-Palestine sentiment.”

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