by Muhammad Nuray Alam in Dhaka,
The world is witnessing a surprise diplomatic move by the Arab World starting with United Arab Emirates (UAE) taking the lead to establish diplomatic ties with once sworn foe — Israeli.
According to analysts, this is the start of a changing Muslim world. But not merely that, recent attitude of UAE and Saudi Arabia towards Israel is a signal that something important is happening. The Saudis have allowed Israel to use its sky. UAE held talks with several Israeli businessmen.
Prior to UAE, Egypt and Jordan signed treaties with Israel. Morocco also maintains good relation, but did not advance further as it is afraid of losing public support.
In the meantime, Bahrain allowed Israel to use its sky. UAE-Israel agreement has become among the most discussed issue of the world.
Taking the opportunity of such a development, an Israeli lobby is trying to explain the importance of easing relationship with Israel and trying to involve Bangladesh in this regard. Bangladesh has remained silent regarding UAE-Israel intimacy although few media provoking the policymakers to take decision regarding this but government is motionless.
Present stand of Bangladesh Regarding Israel:
Bangladesh has made one thing clear that it will not recognize Israel until there is an independent Palestine. Bangladesh officially supports a sovereign Palestinian state and “an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine”. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in 2014, “We have been continuing our support to the Palestinians and occupation of their land by the Israelis is never acceptable”. The Bangladeshi passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel. It is one of several countries that officially bans its citizens from traveling to Israel and does not accept Israeli passports.
Israel’s attempt in normalizing relationship
There have been isolated attempts from Israel to build relationship with Bangladesh. Since very inception of Bangladesh the then Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed refused Israel’s offer of recognition and military help without a second thought. Dr. Richard L. Benkin, an American geopolitical analyst is working for developing Bangladesh-Israel relation, writes that, “I have engaged with several Bangladeshi leaders about initiating discussions with Israel. The last time was in 2013, when Sheikh Hasina’s political advisor and confidant, HT Imam, invited me to Dhaka. He raised the subject. In keeping with how Israel engages, I made sure any overtures were respectful of Bangladeshi history and sentiments. As Israel has built relations with more and more countries, it has done so recognizing political and other challenges these different governments face.’’ (Asian Age, 20 August 2020)
On the other hand, Israel appointed Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who once urged Bangladesh to recognize Israel and in November 2003, he was arrested for attempting to fly to Tel Aviv.
It should be clear that Bangladesh is not against Jews, it is only against Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Bangladesh generously recognized few Jews for their contribution to Bangladesh. Among them General J.F.R Jacob, architect Louis I. Kahn are mentionable. Jewish military officer Jacob played a vital role in in providing military assistance to Bengali guerillas in 1971 and in defeating the Pakistani Army. He was recognized as a “Friend of Liberation War” by Bangladesh. The famous Jewish architect Louis I. Kahn who designed our visually pleasing parliament building, is remembered warmly here in Dhaka.
It will be immoral to normalize relation with Israel without independent Palestine. Bangabandhu once said, the world is divided in two parts. One is exploiter and another is exploited. We are in favor of exploited. The people of Bangladesh are always beside Palestinian people since long.
Many Bangladeshi youths went to Lebanon to fight against the Israeli invading Force in the early 80s. During Arab-Israel war Legendary Bangladeshi fighter pilot Saif-ul-Azam playing important role capsizing Israeli military helicopter. Evaluating people’s sentiment leaders of Bangladesh have never maintained any overt or covert relation with Israel. In all possible diplomatic forums, Bangladesh has persistently sided with Palestine. In 1973, Bangladesh supported Palestine’s fight against Israel in the October war, sending a medical unit and relief supplies for the fellow war-ravaged country. Bangladesh already has an official policy of non-cooperation with Israel in place, the proposed policy will render considerable feats. In 1997, Yasser Arafat, came to Dhaka as per special invitation of the then Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of independence of Bangladesh. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Dhaka on 1 February 2017.
The fact for now is that it is not possible for Muslim-majority Bangladesh to have any kind of relations with Israel or even applaud the UAE-Israel agreement. It will be suicidal for the government and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will never give up the hopes of the Palestinians.
It is true Bangladesh’s neighbours India and Myanmar have close ties with Israel. Myanmar is using Israel’s military weapon in its genocidal campaign against the Rohingya, that directly affects our interest. It is unavoidable that Israel can never be a fried of a Muslim country as the country preaches intolerance towards Islam and consider the faith as the sole enemy of Jews. So, if Israel is your friend, you need not to find out your enemy. The question is not what the defeated Arabs did for Palestine and we are not Arab state, but we have fought and defeated our enemies, and we value the sacrifices for noble causes.
Yet, there is no last word in politics or for that matter diplomacy, as it is the extension of politics.