Bangladesh warns citizens against traveling to Israel
By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA): The Bangladeshi foreign minister on Wednesday warned the country’s citizens against traveling to Israel.
Speaking to journalists after handing over medical supplies worth 4 million Bangladeshi taka (approx. $47,000) to Palestinian envoy Yousef SY Ramadan as humanitarian aid to Palestine, A. K. Abdul Momen reiterated Bangladesh’s stance of not developing any diplomatic ties with Israel.
The medical supplies will be sent to Palestine through Jordan, a Foreign Ministry statement said, adding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will also donate $50,000 for the Palestinian people.
Underlining that Bangladesh has not changed its position on Israel and Palestine, Momen said that if any Bangladeshi citizen tries to visit Israel, “action will be taken as per immigration law,” said the statement.
“If anyone goes there, the person will be liable to be prosecuted. There has been evidence before,” said the minister.
A local Bangla language newspaper, the Daily Manab Zamin, reported on Wednesday that some Bangladeshi nationals, including physicians, businessmen, film actors, and bloggers, have secretly visited Israel.
“Due to embargo on visiting Israel, they used a third country as transit,” the report said, adding that concerned Israeli embassies issued permission for them on separate papers without using their passports.
After traveling to Israel, some of them have even shared their experiences with the newspaper on condition of anonymity, the report claimed.
Since the birth of the South Asian Muslim-majority country of 165 million people in 1971, it has not developed any bilateral relations with Israel. Neither states have embassies in the other.
For the last five decades, all Bangladeshi passports have carried a written declaration saying: “This passport is valid for all countries in the world except Israel.”
Bangladesh has recently dropped “except Israel” from its e-passports, saying it was done in line with international standards. The move triggered speculation that Dhaka could be considering to establish ties with Tel Aviv.
The Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh, however, clarified the issue, stating that Dhaka did not change its long-standing policy against Israeli aggression and illegal settlements in the Palestinian territory.
Momen added: “Bangladesh still follows the policy as it was during the time of [country’s founding leader] Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman [in 1972-1975].”
Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific Gilad Cohen welcomed the move by Bangladesh.
Cohen tweeted last Saturday: “Great news! #Bangladesh has removed travel ban to Israel. This is a welcome step & I call on the Bangladeshi government to move forward and establish diplomatic ties with #Israel so both our peoples could benefit & prosper.”
*SM Najmus Saqib in Dhaka contributed to this story.
Additional report by The Muslim News
[Map of Bangladesh by CIA/Public Domain]
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