Bahrain says new Jewish ambassador not propaganda
by Mohammad Fadhel Sat May 31, 11:15 AM ET
MANAMA (AFP) - Bahrain's anticipated appointment of a Jewish woman as ambassador to the United States -- the first for an Arab country -- is not a public relations stunt, a senior official said on Saturday.
"This is not a public relations move," the official told AFP, referring to the expected naming soon of Huda Nunu as the Gulf kingdom's ambassador to Washington.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said King Hamad informed US officials during a visit to Washington in March of Bahrain's intention to name Nunu.
The Jewish population amounts to no more than 37 among a total of around 530,000 people.
"This move is not propaganda. It reflects a climate of tolerance towards minorities in Bahrain," which is ruled by a Sunni dynasty and has a disgruntled Shiite majority.
Nunu will be the third Bahraini woman to be appointed as an ambassador. Sheikha Haya al-Khalifa was the country's ambassador to France, while Shiite Bibi Alawi was appointed a few months ago as envoy to China.
Until she assumes her new position, Nunu will continue serving in the appointed Shura (consultative) Council -- the upper chamber of parliament. In 2006, she replaced her brother Ibrahim, the first Jewish member of the council.
Bahrain is the only Arab Gulf country to have a Jewish community. Their numbers are believed to have been higher at the turn of the 20th century, but dwindled following the creation of Israel in 1948.
"The number of Jews increased from around 50 people in 1905 to 500 in the 1940s ... This was a golden period for Bahraini Jews," said Ali al-Jalawi, a Bahraini writer who authored a book on the Jewish minority.
Nunu's grandfather, Ibrahim Nunu, represented the Jewish community in Bahrain's municipal council formed by the British authorities in 1919. The council had representatives of all religious and ethnic communities that were present in the then British protectorate.
The first wave of Jewish migration from Bahrain came after the creation of Israel following reactionary attacks on houses of some Jews and their synagogue in Manama, Jalawi told AFP.
Another batch left Bahrain after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The only synagogue in Bahrain, which is located in the Old Quarter of Manama and had been deserted since 1948, has recently been renovated, he said.
"Nunu's appointment stresses the seriousness of Bahrain's reform policies ... It shows that Bahrain does not differentiate between men and women in public offices and does not discriminate against citizens on the bases of their beliefs," the official said.
Nunu heads a human rights watchdog in Bahrain, where political parties remain banned, although political associations operate as de facto parties.
Her forthcoming office assumes extra importance as Bahrain is a key US ally in the region, and is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. It also has a free trade agreement with Washington.
Bahrain says new Jewish ambassador not propaganda - Yahoo! News