Joseph Braude responds to a dishonest Bahraini government press statement

by Joseph Braude

– A speech I gave at a public affairs forum here in Bahrain this week received a warm response from the two daily newspapers Al-Ayam and Al-Wasat.  I was disappointed the following day, however, to discover that the government’s “Bahrain News Agency” had issued a bogus news release which put words into my mouth I hadn’t said and grossly distorted what I did say.

The first quote is, “Despite those difficulties, the kingdom is going ahead steadfastly toward achieving successful political reform.”  This is purely a fabrication; I said nothing of the sort.

Without quoting me directly, the release says that I “asserted that the kingdom of Bahrain is a land of tolerance, co-existence and openness to other peoples and cultures.”  This is a reference to feelings about Bahrain I formed years ago on a prior visit.  I brought it up as a means of describing an ideal Bahrain which well-intentioned people in this country would like to reach for.

Remarks about American foreign policy double standards and the role of trade in strengthening American-Bahraini relations appear to have been misunderstood.  My lecture noted that Israel advances its interests by directly engaging Americans en masse in every sector — private, public, non-profit, etc. — without relying on the Israeli embassy in Washington as a conduit for outreach.  I went on to say that Morocco has benefited from American support in many ways as well — whether government, opposition, or civil society groups — through a similar type of non-government engagement.

There are other problems with the document, but suffice it to say a bit of fact checking would have served the Bahrain News Agency well.  It also bears noting that there is a history of such distortions by BNA, perhaps the most prominent example being this one. If you’re curious to read a transcript of my lecture (Arabic), it’s at this link.

* Update: A talk I have subsequently given in Bahrain makes reference to this incident.

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