An adviser to Donald Trump may be playing a key role in forging an alliance between Israel and Bahrain.
An investigation by the research group Bahrain Watch published this week reveals that the “interfaith” organization This Is Bahrain has close ties with Johnnie Moore, an “evangelical adviser” to the US president.
Moore runs a public relations firm that caters to governments and his efforts appear aimed at whitewashing human rights crimes by Bahrain’s authorities during and since a 2011 uprising, as well as normalizing ties with Israel.
Moore also backed the president’s decision this month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
This week Moore personally shepherded a This is Bahrain “interfaith” delegation on a tour of Jerusalem.
The Bahraini delegation was met with outright rejection from Palestinians who viewed it as normalization with Israel.
But according to Bahrain Watch, the visit “is the latest act in a strategy bringing together an unlikely set of bedfellows, including the king of Bahrain, right-wing pro-Israel rabbis, an evangelical spiritual adviser to Donald Trump and a Scottish-born campaigner who is more loyal to the Bahraini monarchy than the king himself.”
Bahrain Watch says that “trying to project a liberal image” is a main aim of Bahrain’s recent outreach, but that “other actions indicate that Bahrain is warming up to Israel itself as part of a regional alliance with Israel against Iran.”
Another group closely involved in the Jerusalem visit is the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a far-right Zionist organization that aims to suppress the Palestine solidarity movement.
“This was not done under the radar. It was done openly by two NGOs knowing full well it would generate controversy,” the group’s director Abraham Cooper told The Jerusalem Post.
“Worked together as friends”
Moore posted on Twitter a photo of himself with members of the Bahraini delegation in Jerusalem. He wrote, “We have worked together as friends on King Hamad’s Bahrain Declaration for Religious Freedom and Peaceful Coexistence” – referring to This Is Bahrain’s visit with King Hamad’s son, Nasser, to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles in September.
At the same Los Angeles event, leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that King Hamad had denounced the Arab boycott of Israel and encouraged Bahraini nationals to visit Israel, when they met him during an earlier visit to Bahrain.
Moore also visited Bahrain and met the crown prince in April, and praised the Gulf kingom as a bastion of religious “coexistence.”
Earlier this year, the Simon Wiesenthal Center awarded Moore its “Medal of Valor,” which it also bestowed posthumously on Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president who was responsible for decades of crimes against Palestinian and Lebanese people.
Bahrain’s foreign minister was one of the only Arab officials to publicly lament Peres’ death last year, praising him in a tweet.
Last month, Moore traveled to Cairo as part of an evangelical delegation, where they met with dictator Abdulfattah al-Sisi.
According to one member of the delegation, the group told al-Sisi of its “appreciation for his fight against terrorism and extremism, for his commitment to peace and security ties with Israel, and for saving Egypt from the darkness of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The meeting, originally scheduled for one hour, stretched to three. “It was like we were best friends for our entire life,” Moore told the Christian Broadcasting Network afterwards.
Earlier this year, Trump met Bahrain’s King Hamad in Saudi Arabia and pledged to improve ties between their two countries.
This included approving a $5-billion weapons sale that had been held up over human rights concerns.
The US has also been pushing for normalization between Saudi Arabia and its allies and Israel.
In another sign of the warming relations, Israel’s intelligence minister Yisrael Katz has reportedly invited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to visit Israel in an interview with Saudi newspaper Elaph.
Whitewashing Bahrain’s image
Johnnie Moore founded and runs a public relations firm called The Kairos Company, which specifically caters to world leaders who want to “sharpen their public image,” especially among “faith-based” audiences.
According to research by Bahrain Watch, the Bahraini government has paid American and British public relations companies more than $32 million since the 2011 uprising, though The Kairos Company is not listed among them.
In an emailed statement, The Kairos Company told The Electronic Intifada that it does not have Bahrain or any Bahraini organizations as its clients. It said that Moore “personally paid any/all of his expenses to/from and during his visits to Bahrain, Jerusalem and many other places in the region.”
Calling him a “peacemaker and bridge builder,” The Kairos Company said that Moore counts the leaders of This is Bahrain as his “friends” and that his activities with them were related to his “humanitarian” work around the world.
The Bahrain Watch investigation reveals that This Is Bahrain is effectively the creation of another organization, the Bahrain Federation of Expatriate Associations.
The organization is run by Betsy Mathieson, the Scottish immigrant Bahrain Watch describes as “more loyal to the monarchy than the King himself.”
She appears in the photo Johnnie Moore posted of himself with the Bahraini delegation in Jerusalem.
The organization was formed following a 2011 event held by King Hamad for an audience of “resident expatriates” to condemn the uprisings in the kingdom.
Mathieson read a poem she called “The Betrayal of the Kingdom of Love,” condemning those who protested the autocratic government as “traitors.”
Her organization also sponsored the “King Hamad Chair for Peaceful Coexistence” to fund a full-time professor at the Sapienza University of Rome for 15 years. Hamad’s son Nasser traveled to Rome with Mathieson to inaugurate the $2 million endowed chair.
“It is not clear who is funding the [Bahrain Federation of Expatriate Associations’] events and exhibitions around the world, not to mention the $2 million check to the University or Rome,” Bahrain Watch states. “However it is clear that all of these events are happening with the full knowledge, blessing and logistical support of the king and senior government officials.”
Returning the favor
In a now deleted tweet, Ayoob Kara, Israel’s communications minister and a lawmaker from the ruling Likud Party, posted a picture of himself with Samir Sadiq al-Baharna, a member of the Shura Council – an official consultative body in Bahrain.
Kara also met the This Is Bahrain’s delegation in Jerusalem, according to a Bloomberg report.
“There will be more surprises in the coming year,” Kara told the publication. “We see great interest among the Gulf states in developing connections with Israel.”
Kara has plans to visit Bahrain in coming months.
A group of Israeli business leaders is also scheduled to visit Bahrain next month on a junket organized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Abraham Cooper.
“The Bahrainis have approved it. It will be a Wiesenthal Center delegation,” Cooper told The Jerusalem Post. “The idea is to establish some direct contacts, which are not political, but the idea is to start normal contacts.”