For the second year in a row, the Arab state hosted a candle-lighting ceremony marking the start of Hanukkah, Saturday. The event, hosted by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, was attended by a selection of Bahrain’s tiny Jewish population as well as Jews from France. Later, a video was posted to YouTube showing Jewish men in kippahs and Muslim men wearing keffiyehs dancing together.
That combination led to a furious reaction from the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas.
“In light of the increasing pace of international sympathy for the Palestinian cause… and the growing boycott of the Zionist movement in all forms, a group of dignitaries and traders in the State of Bahrain hosted a Zionist, racist and extremist Jewish delegation and danced with them in a humiliating and disgraceful spectacle,” Hamas officials said in a statement, as reported by The Independent. “Hamas calls on Bahrain to fully stop any form of normalization with the Zionist enemy.”
Bahrain is the only Arab Gulf state that has a synagogue. It was also the first to appoint a Jewish ambassador, when Houda Nonoo was selected as the Bahraini ambassador to the United States in 2008. However, the Jewish population in the country of around 1.4 million people has shrunk to less than 50.
Speaking at the first Hanukkah event he hosted last year, King Al Khalifa said that it was vital to embrace religious tolerance and understanding.
“The call to war against terror needs to come from the leaders of all the religions as one,” he said. “Here in Bahrain members of all the religions live with no fear, and we will continue to allow Jews to live peacefully and quietly, maintaining their lifestyle, their customs and the commandments of their religion without any fear.”
Hamas’ condemnation of the video, which has been viewed nearly 42,000 times on YouTube, comes just days after it welcomed the passing of a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Banka and East Jerusalem. Israel has condemned the members of the UN Security Council who voted in favor of the resolution and the United States, which abstained.