“This is Bahrain” group signs MoU with Israeli MEMRI organisation

this is bahrain group signs with memri
this is bahrain group signs with memri
Ms Mathieson, third from left, Mr Fernandez, fourth from left, with clergymen, Shura Council members and delegates at the MoU signing.

What exactly is this “This is Bahrain” group? Who are they? And who gave them any authority to speak for and on behalf of us Bahrainis and the Bahraini government?

From what I could find, this group is an “initiative” emanating from The Federation of Expat Associations who lists Ms Betsy Mathieson as its secretary general. Ms Mathieson’s LinkedIn profile confirms that she is also This is Bahrain’s organiser. There is no independent website for either the Federation nor the Group in order for us to determine how they are financed and who their boards of directors are. The opaqueness surrounding these groups is one disturbing factor, of course.

The other, and as far as I’m concerned, much more nefarious activity undertaken by them is that they are jetting all over the world, holding conferences and talking on our behalf without any legal authority to do so. And now, they’re even supposedly signing memorandums of understanding with organisations like MEMRI, a partisan and deeply pro-Israeli research institute headed by ex-Israeli intelligence agencies’ personnel whose mission it seems is to translate the worst that Arab media publishes which it then sends out to opinion formers and decision makers in the Western world to increase anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments.

The This is Bahrain group seem to have been given a completely free hand to do whatever they want, no oversight necessary, simply because they promised someone that they’re going to “improve” Bahrain’s reputation. If this is true, then we’ve reached a very sad state of affairs indeed. However, gullibility is of course soon exposed.

MEMRI in response to them supposedly signing a PR MoU with This is Bahrain said in a brief they’ve just released entitled “Bahrain And The Politics Of Deceit”:

It would be easy to chalk this farcical incident up to the frantic efforts of an expat businesswoman clumsily and dishonestly trying to correct the extremely negative image of her adopted homeland.[7]  But it is clear that the “This is Bahrain” roadshow is an attempt at public diplomacy embraced by the Manama government.[8]  The problem it reveals is a larger one not limited to this particular island kingdom in the Middle East.

The crisis of authority in the Middle East, the great shaking and unraveling in the Middle East supposedly unleashed by the Arab Spring but actually long in coming has terrified dynasties to their core.  The rise of the Islamic State, the increased tempo of Iranian-supported military action and terrorism, and the seemingly near complete abdication by the United States of its leading role in the region have all worked on the calculations of existing regimes. Elites rally around authority in such times.

Gone are, in all too many cases, the faltering steps at much needed reform and openness.  Regimes feel threatened existentially and intimately and respond, not by prioritizing reform or change, but by increasing repression and, in the world of the media, by making the lie and the gap between reality and the truth greater rather than lesser.  This is a dangerous, high-stakes, short-term, and even reckless strategy, in Bahrain and beyond.

read full brief

Does this look like an improvement of Bahrain’s reputation? I would say it’s actually anything but. This is what you get when you use band aids to attempt to cure cancer. This is what you get when you trust a bunch of sycophants to try to burnish a tarnished reputation.

I hope that this incident will wake up whomever is providing Ms Mathieson and her groups the cover to operate that this is not the way to do things. People have wised up and are much more informed. Groups like these will do nothing but damage the remaining good graces that this country might still have.

What Bahrain desperately needs is staring it in the face and is so easily accomplished; what it needs is the political will and courage to have an encompassing comprehensive dialogue with the authority to enact its own resolutions. Those need to be put through a national referendum to receive the necessary public backing and to achieve the required consensus to get this country out of its self-imposed quagmire.

What we don’t need is equally as obvious. We don’t need groups of sycophants and social climbers running rough-shod around the world obfuscating our problems and prolonging our genuine quest to resolve them.


  1. Shachar

    And you know what’s funny? I can replace references to “This is Bahrain” to “Bzelem”, “Breaking silence” and “J street” and the likes, and your criticism of Memri with Amensti, HRW and the likes, and you would get, almost word for word, my opinion 🙂

    As an Israeli, I don’t see Memri’s charter as being Anti-Arab/Anri-Muslim. I rather see it as an aeempt to counter the propaganda and lies spread via anti-Israeli “Pro Palestinian” with some facts. (I place “Pro Palestinian” in quotes because I believe their actions are making Palestinian’s lives worse, not better. This, however, is a different discussion, however, quite off topic to this post).

    I know you claim that MEMRI are translating “the worst that Arab media publishes”, but their sources are, almost always, official sanctioned sources (e.g. Hammas official TV and the Palestinian authority channels). Their point is, at least to my eyes, that the messages sent by official Palestinian bodies to the international community is vastly different than the message sent by those same bodies to their Arab speaking audience. That is a legitimate point to raise, even if you do not like it.

    As for the “This is Bahrain” group, I have no idea who they are and who they represent. If they are an independent group, then surely, as one who seems to promote freedom of speech, you must be in favor of their ability to act. If they are a government sanctioned group, then I fully support your right to dissuade your government from taking a position you do not agree with.

    I do have to ask you, however, what your opinion is on some attempts by the Israeli Government to stop Government funding to bodies engaging in anti-Israeli propaganda?


    1. Shachar

      Another important point. As far as I can tell, MEMRI isn’t an Israeli organization. It is not incorporated (or whatever the equivalent term is for non-profits) in Israel, and is not financially supported by the Israeli government.

      It is an institute with a clear pro-Israeli agenda, and some of its board members are Israeli. Surely that is not enough to discard them completely, right? After all, you have not kicked me out of your blog yet.


    2. Post

      It’s all about perspective I guess Shachar. I’m faulting MEMRI for them seemingly taking things out of context to make a point which is almost always detrimental to Arabs and Muslims. Let me also assert here that in most cases, we brought that upon ourselves and we deserve the ridicule. If we want to not be ridiculed, we need to correct our ways.

      Another things that we Arabs need to do to counter MEMRI is start a “research institute” of our own that translates our output with context and send those pieces to influencers so we get our opinions heard. With the money that is wasted by our countries, we can more than be able to afford this and do it as a center of excellence. Unfortunately, I can see that money being spent spying on our own people rather than try to get our points across with credibility.

      I’m all for freedom of expression. I am against coercion and gullible – and even sophisticated – spin doctoring. I believe that the groups I mentioned have their clear agenda to skew and spin not even to polish the picture of the Bahraini government per se, but to position themselves to benefit from the outcome without any regard to the mayhem they produce. They’re also being utilised as useful fools and they probably know this too. The avalanche of benefits they get probably suppresses any sense of propriety or guilt or both.

  2. Shachar

    I’m faulting MEMRI for them seemingly taking things out of context to make a point which is almost always detrimental to Arabs and Muslims.

    Can you do me a little favor? Go to their web site and quickly browse their front page videos. While I agree that most of them (if not all) can be taken to be pro-Israeli, there are quite a few them which are not anti-Arab, quite the contrary.

    Some references (all from the front page of the web site as of now):
    The U.S. Supreme Court Decision Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage: Arab Artists In Favor, Arab Press Against

    Iraqi Columnist: Why Aren’t Muslim Clerics Calling For Jihad Against ISIS?

    Al-Azhar University Professor Saad Al-Din Al-Hilali: Human Life Is More Important than the Al-Aqsa Mosque

    Archival – Saudi Writer Zuhair Kutbi: We Must Stop Fooling Ourselves and Teaching Hatred toward Others

    Egyptian Playwright Ali Salem, 1936-2015 – In Memoriam

    There are more, but the copy paste is tiresome.

    These articles seem to bring liberal voices from the Arab world, making Arab seem more, not less, approachable. That is, at least, how I see those stories. I think we agree that our respective biases sometimes color the same stories in completely different shades. This is the reason I asked you to go over that page. I’m interested to know whether your view is different.

    Don’t get me wrong. The stories above represent about one story out of each row or two (i.e. – about one in eight stories). The vast majority of stories there sure don’t make the Arab media look good. I’m just opposing your claim that this is a result of an anti-Arab agenda.

    You’re more exposed to Arab media than I am (to my shame, my Arabic vocabulary is maybe 20 words deep). You tell me what is the correct ratio between moderate and hot headed voices in the Arab media. If that 1:8 ratio is about right, maybe it’s not Memri you should direct your accusations at.

    I will also point out that quite a few of those videos are not new (at least if we are to believe their “archival” word in the title). I have no idea what the editorial process is that made whoever there choose to promote this particular story now. To their credit, they seem to be upfront about that fact, however.

    What I’m trying to say is that this is obviously a site with an agenda. However, they seem to be fairly upfront about what that agenda is, they seem to be honest about what the videos they bring say, and the agenda does not seem to be anti-Arab or anti-Muslim.


    1. Post

      What I’m trying to say is that this is obviously a site with an agenda. However, they seem to be fairly upfront about what that agenda is, they seem to be honest about what the videos they bring say, and the agenda does not seem to be anti-Arab or anti-Muslim.

      I’ve said before that it’s our fault first and foremost. I’m not (and no one should for that matter) complain when people take us to task with the brain-dead filth that we have to contend with emanating from people who should know better. What MEMRI does is trim clips – sometimes – which could take things out of context and amplifies the bad. Again, we should take responsibility for the bad to be sure, because if we had been better, then those clips won’t have been there is the first place.

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