Amidst the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel, Bangladesh has announced that its passport will no longer be invalid in the Jewish nation. The historic decision, taken on Saturday (May 22), thus lifts the decades-long ban on Bangladeshi citizens from travelling to Israel.
The Bangladeshi passport earlier carried a text which goes as “this passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel.” Now, the Sheikh Hasina government has decided to do away with the old system. The government will issue new passports soon, where the words ‘except Israel’ will be dropped. This means, now the passport will say The Bangladeshi passport earlier carried a text which goes as “valid for all countries of the world except Israel.” At present this change will apply only for e-passports. The printed Machine Readable Passports will be changed gradually.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal says they are bringing the changes to ensure that the passports meet the “international standards”. He further said, “No country uses the words anymore, not even the Arab nations…You must have diplomatic relations (for travel). And many people cannot travel to a country if they are refused visa even though diplomatic relations are there.”
Khan clarified that its Middle East policy will not change with the new development. It must be mentioned that the Bangladesh government has sided with Palestine and condemned the ‘actions’ of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nation dubbed Israel’s military intervention as “abhorrent acts of violence against innocent civilians of Palestine, including women and children.”
Israel welcomes move by Bangladesh government
While welcoming the decision, Gilad Cohen tweeted, “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.” Cohen is the Israeli Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific.
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.@IsraelMFA #IsraelLooksEast https://t.co/LbOLbm9dfG— Gilad Cohen 🇮🇱 (@GiladCohen_) May 22, 2021
Earlier, several Bangladeshi citizens had been imprisoned for travelling to Israel. One of the infamous cases was that of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, ex-Weekly Blitz editor. He was handed an extended jail term for trying to travel to Israel to attend a conference. It is believed that the new decision by the Bangladeshi government may help establish economic ties with Israel.
Questions linger over the possibility of the establishment of diplomatic ties
Even though the Bangladesh govt have removed the ‘except Israel’ words from the passport, both the nations still don’t have diplomatic relations. Bangladesh has not officially recognised Israel yet, while Palestine has an embassy in Dhaka.
While speaking on the development to BDNews24, former diplomat M. Humayun Kabir said, “It will depend on our political decision. We are always vocal about (the rights of) the Palestinians. But we will have to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel if we want to establish relations with that country. Will we do that? Will it be politically prudent for us?”
He added, “Secondly, will it be ethically right for us to establish relations with Israel when Israel has created an intolerable situation by evicting Palestinians, carrying out military operations on them, and refusing the idea of two states? We must keep these things in mind while making decisions.” It must be noted that Bangladesh had resumed economic ties with Taiwan informally, after it had removed ‘except Israel’ from the passport.
Several Islamic nations have the same policy
Although Bangladesh has removed the text ‘not valid for Israel’ from its passports, several Islamic nations still carry the practice, like Brunei, Iran , Iraq, and Pakistan. Moreover, several other countries do not allow entry of citizens of any other country if their passports show that they had travelled to Israel.
However, despite this ‘ban’ by the passport issuing nations, Israel allows entry of citizens from those countries, and many such people visit Israel from third countries. To facilitate this, Israel does not stamp their passports at the time of entry and exit. Instead, Israeli immigration officials insert a separate sheet in the passport and put the stamp on that paper. At the time of exiting Israel, that sheet is discarded, thereby removing any official evidence that that person had visited Israel.
It is done for both the categories of countries, those who say their passports are not valid for Israel, and those who don’t allow entry of people who had visited Israel. This means that citizens of those countries are able to travel to Israel, if they travel to a third country having diplomatic relations with Israel and obtain a visa.
Some countries also two passports to their citizens to avoid this issue, so that their citizens can use one passport to travel to Israel and the other to Islamic nations that don’t allow persons with Israeli travel history.