Bahrain journalist: 'Israel was a "demon", is now a friend'

Ahdeya Ahmed AlSayed speaks with Arutz Sheva. "It’s sad to demonize a nation, to demonize people, but things have changed"

Yoni Kempinski ,

Ahdeya Ahmed AlSayed
Ahdeya Ahmed AlSayed
Arutz Sheva

Arutz Sheva spoke with Ahdeya Ahmed AlSayed, head of the Bahrain Journalist Association who shared her feelings and thoughts following the signing of the Abraham Accords.

Tell us first please about the feelings in Bahrain following the Abraham Aaccords, and especially through your eyes as a journalist.

“People are all excited here and media, I can see the excitement through the eyes of my colleagues, who, just a few days ago were involved in the coverage of the Israeli delegation’s arrival in Bahrain. And the number of journalists who attended this event and how they reported it, it just shows how eager they have been and how happy they are. And even before the arrival of the flight, Yoni, you could see the happiness and how they are looking forward to what will be the benefits of these agreements through the columns that they have been writing. The standard of my evaluation is the columns because coverage is just the coverage of an event, but columns is an opinion. So I have been evaluating what my colleagues have been thinking about these peace agreements through what they have written, and they have been very happy, they have been very excited, and their excitement reflects the society's excitement and happiness, too.”

Due to all the experiences we had as a Jewish people, the Jewish State, we grew up understanding that the Arabs represent the enemy, the other side; do you think that we're really at the beginning of a different era?

“Yes, of course; it is sad that I have lived to see hatred, I have left to see the moment that you say someone is from Israel, you see the expression on the faces of some people. It’s very sad, of course, and the other way around, as you said. But I think media played a very negative role in that. It’s sad to demonize a nation, to demonize people, but today things have changed. I actually think it hasn't changed overnight; it has been there for the past decades, people have been more peaceful, more accepted accepting the others’ ideology. Let's not forget what this country is composed of: This country is composed of people from different religions and sects and nationalities, so it's a bit different in Bahrain, accepting others regardless of what they believe in is different.

"But I totally agree with you, the issue of - you look at the other person as an enemy. Some people still have that feeling, and it will take time to remove those hard feelings that people have. But this is why we need to cooperate as journalists, to remove these feelings from the people in Israel towards the Arabs and the other way around in this part of the world.

"I don't know why people, regardless of politics, you can have different political opinions - you can be against me all the time, but how can you hate me? I don't understand hatred. And I think people in Bahrain don't have these hard feelings. It's all politics, even people who have been against the peace agreements, it's just purely politics and ideologies that they follow. They’re too good to know what hatred is about.”

Ahdeya Ahmed AlSayed with King of Bahrain

So Ahdeya, what's next? Are you looking forward to a visit in Israel?

“Of course, Yoni; imagine that I’m 47 years old; I have grown in a country where I wasn't allowed to visit Israel. Of course my personal life, my friendships, nothing has stopped me from having Israeli friends. But I want to come to Israel, and many people ask me: ‘When you want to go, do you want to go to the Mosque as the first place you visit?’ No, I want to enter people's homes. When you enter people's homes, you get to know them; these are people I have been deprived of interacting with, all these decades in my life.

"Today I have the opportunity to meet people, sit with them, have a Shabbat dinner, celebrate Hannukah. I wish I could celebrate Hannukah next month in Tel Aviv. I don't know how the COVID issue will be, but if the COVID issue is solved, I would love to be, during Hannukah, I would like to be in Tel Aviv.

“Yeah, I think it's it's sad to be deprived of something for such a long time, and then finally you see the airplanes in your skies and you know that change has happened up there, and in a few minutes it will happen on the ground.”

You’re talking about being deprived; you feel that you were educated that way?

“No, I remember that when we used to plan our trips, for instance, to go on a cruise; the moment we see that Israel is part of the cruise, we know that we are not allowed in. And this is being deprived of visiting a country that you would like to visit. As a human being, it's my right to enter any country and meet people. I was deprived of that.

"When we were younger, in school, Israel was a demon. We weren't even allowed to discuss Israel. You don't even mention that country. It's a taboo to mention that country. As we grew older, no; we realized that we can think and decide on our own. We can decide if we want to meet people, or not to. If we want to have an issue with these people, or not to.

"Politics should never separate people, and I've said the story on a few interviews: That when you travel and ask people where are they from, the moment they want to say that they're from Israel, they hesitate to say. This is a violation of the rights of other people. When you see hesitation in the eyes of the other person, hesitated to say where he or she is from, it means that that person has also lived in isolation and is scared of telling an Arab that he or she is an Israeli.”

Ahdeya Ahmed AlSayed

Let’s talk about the other way around. What's awaiting the Israelis who come to visit Bahrain? Nice hospitality?

“Of course. I have mentioned this, and I mean it: I would like to host the first delegation visiting the country, whether they are journalists whether it's just people; I would like to celebrate, and many other people like me would like to celebrate.

"And in the past year, I have I have received some videos of dinner gatherings that happened in Bahrain and hosted by Bahrainis and Israelis attended these dinner gatherings, when they attended one of the major economic events in Bahrain and they were dancing and they were happy and they were singing; this happened before the official normalization. Can you imagine Yoni, what will happen now? I imagine how many gatherings there will be all around us, people hosting Israelis and welcoming them in their second home. I am truly excited about that.

“Going to bed at night and sleeping and knowing that you are enemies with people, or with a country, it's a very difficult thing to deal with. Israel is now a friend, officially, and Bahrainis will welcome them, and I think that the moments the flights start operating we will see many gatherings, many events, many celebrations; I will see Bahrainis hosting Shabbat dinners and gatherings, and finally the door is open and the wall has been broken.”

Ahdeya, I have to say, you seem very emotional, moved by this whole story.

“Yoni, I’ll tell you something: Do you know that when I speak about this, I do get tears, and as people in the media and journalists, we are not allowed to show our emotions when we are excited. But I have been having tears about this for four months. From the moment that I saw our Foreign Minister sign the agreement, and then the moment the of the arrival of the flight to Bahrain. When I saw those moments, I felt at peace. And I don't understand why people don't enjoy these moments. These are moments that don't get repeated in history, and we got to see it.”

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