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DUBAI (Reuters) - A Bahraini civil society group has defended sending a delegation to Israel as a gesture of tolerance and coexistence, state news agency BNA has reported, after news of the visit sparked wide anger on social media.
The visit came amid high emotions in the Arab world over U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv, a move that was widely condemned across the Arab world.
The visit by 24 delegates from the group called 'This is Bahrain' has prompted a hashtag #Bahrain_resists_normalisation, in which twitter users declaring their opposition to what some called an "act of treason" against Palestinians and Bahrainis.
In a statement carried by state news agency BNA late on Sunday, the group said the visit was a private initiative to "Israel and occupied Jerusalem" comprising Bahrainis and expatriates of various faiths.
"The initiative by 'This is Bahrain' is based on the principle of tolerance and coexistence, an approach embraced by the Kingdom of Bahrain and a feature of its society, and aims to visit Islamic, Christian, Jewish and other holy sites across the world," the group said.
Most Arab countries see Israel as an occupier of Arab lands, and say any normalisation of ties with the Jewish state must be in line with an Arab peace plan that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Michael Perry)