The Bahraini regime insists on escalating the normalisation process and establishing an alliance with Israel amidst general popular and cultural rejection.
Observers highlight that it was not in the calculations of the Al-Khalifa regime that the refusal of normalisation with Israel came from a high-ranking official in a regime rushing towards normalisation, the head of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, Sheikha Mai bint Muhammad Al Khalifa. She has been in this position since 2015 until the King of Bahrain dismissed her on Thursday.
At the home of the American ambassador in Manama, the minister refused to shake hands with the Israeli ambassador.
Sheikha Mai obtained the Ministry of Culture and Information (2008-2010), then the Ministry of Culture (2010-2014). She had a profound vision of the work of the Ministry of Culture; she considered it a constituent ministry for every potential advancement in the country.
Sheikha Mai links culture and the rewriting of history and the necessity of reviving the distant history of the country, and the history of Bahrain goes back thousands of years. She rebuilt the house of her grandfather Ibrahim, a great writer and intellectual, and was visited by great figures, such as Amin al-Rihani and many others.
This replay showed her the necessity to work for the history of Bahrain and elevate her country. It has contributed significantly to the revival of nearly 30 houses of culture, with the names of religious, cultural and musical figures, played a role in praise of Bahrain Fort and theatre, and made Manama the capital of Arab culture and Muharraq the capital of Islamic culture.
Her vision of culture is not closed to Bahrain, which is why she participated in Bahraini works outside the country. She tried hard to make culture a tourist destination for visitors to the entire Gulf Cooperation Council.
Homes, hotels, and various cultural activities attract tourists, and there are celebrations annually and on specific dates.
An opinion poll conducted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy indicates a noticeable decline in the percentage of supporters of normalisation agreements with the occupation in the Gulf states in 2022, and we know that many of the sheikhs of the Emirates do not agree with the normalisation that the Emirate of Abu Dhabi led.
Arab normalisation remained sandwiched between the regimes and Israel, knowing that Jordan and Egypt, signatories to peace agreements with Israel, did not engage in the Abraham agreements projects for the Emirates and Bahrain.
The issue is that a Bahraini minister has for many years refused that handshake. Some of you may ask, how did you do that? Rejecting normalisation requires only a little rationality, thinking and looking at the conditions of the Palestinians. We will not discuss Zionism as a political project for the imperialists to dismantle Palestine and the Arab world and prevent it from progressing.
Sheikha Mai did only what her conscience told her, so how could she not? And she kept saying, many times, that a culture is an act of resistance. It is she who refused to approve projects for American Jews who wanted to participate in the restoration of old Jewish homes in Bahrain, but in a Zionist context and before the barbarism of normalisation in 2020.
Sheikha Mai is an educated historian to advance her country; she accepted the Ministry of Culture and then the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities presidency. She also worked to clarify the issue of Palestine for students in her country. And therefore, her refusal to shake hands is a rejection of her country’s policy of normalisation and a rejection of the Zionist entity in Palestine.
There is a broad rejection of the Israeli occupation in Bahrain, and more than eight political societies and 23 civil groups have issued joint statements.
Sheikha Mai may not have had to announce this position before, but now she is definitively declaring it. Her immediate dismissal indicates the lightness with which the administration and politics are run in this Bahrain.