The son of the king of Bahrain and a large entourage from the Gulf state made an unusual visit to the Jewish-sponsored Museum of Tolerance in California last week, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.
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Following the visit, Prince Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa held an interfaith dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Hilton in Beverly Hills, at which a declaration in support of religious tolerance from King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa was released.
Describing the museum as “an unabashedly pro-Israel institution,” the report noted that the prince’s visit “highlights the shifting sands of Middle Eastern politics in an era in which common enemies and concerns can create strange bedfellow.” Bahrain has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
The museum is backed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose founder and dean, Rabbi Marvin Hier, delivered an invocation at U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration in January. Hier visited the king of Bahrain in February at his palace. According to the report, Hier “was heartened by the king’s warming stance toward Israel,” quoting him as saying: “If I had to predict, I would tell you that the Arab world’s relationship with the state of Israel is going to dramatically change.”
The report added, however, that the monarch’s “visit also comes as Bahrain confronts growing criticism from the United States and international human rights organizations about the treatment of its Shi'ite majority, which is regularly disenfranchised by the Sunni-led government.”
Earlier this month, Bahrain condemned as inaccurate a report by Amnesty International accusing the Bahraini government of crushing dissent and violently cracking down on protests over the past year. Amnesty said it had documented how, from June 2016 to June 2017, the Bahraini government had arrested, tortured, threatened or banned from travel at least 169 activists and opponents or their relatives. It also accused in particular Britain and the United States, who both have military facilities in Bahrain, of turning a blind eye to abuses.
Reuters contributed to this report.