CAMARADERIE FOR PALESTINE
RIFAT ISLAM ESHA
The recent and ongoing conflict in Gaza has left the world feeling helpless. The international support for the cause falls short of what Gazans need at this point. Here in Bangladesh, thousands of miles away, most people can offer only moral support – sharing #hashtags and news stories, or boycotting products that aid or fund Israel.
As of August 4, Al Jazeera reports that 1,815 Palestinians have been killed and, as indicated by the Palestinian health ministry, 410 of those were children. The world is watching and many want to put effective pressure on the governments responsible, to put an end to this interminable conflict.
Bangladesh has always been one of those countries. It has been supporting Palestine since its own liberation. Our country does not officially recognise the state of Israel, and supports the end of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Bangladesh has no foreign relations or trade with Israel. No one is allowed to travel to Israel with a Bangladeshi passport.
On July 14, five days after the recent attacks on Gazans, the Bangladesh cabinet strongly condemned the attacks and killing by the Israeli military at its regular cabinet meeting at the secretariat, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh stated that killing of scores of innocent civilians was a human rights violation.
According to a foreign ministry press release on August 4, there was a meeting where Bangladesh called on the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member countries to jointly mobilise to express their support for Palestine by imposing a trade embargo on Israel. He urged that member states not allow visas to Israeli politicians, representatives and business people responsible for committing crimes against humanity. The countries should “slap a ban on arms trade with Israel for violating the provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty,” said Gowher Rizvi, International Affairs Adviser to the PM. Ministers from Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria and Venezuela and special representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Morocco, Jordan and other NAM member countries also spoke at the meeting.
The role of Arab countries
Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of international relations at the University of Dhaka, spoke to us about the stance Bangladesh has taken on the Israel-Palestine conflict: “Bangladesh will only recognise Israel when there is an independent Palestinian state.”
Unlike some nations in the Arab world, which “play a dubious role,” Bangladesh’s stance in this is very firm, he said.
He believes we ought to be critical about the role of the Arab nations – and not just Israel and the United States – who should be campaigning for an end to the war. The prevailing divisiveness that exists among the Arab nations is not really helping to bring this about. According to Imtiaz, countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar could be much stronger, and play a more prominent role.
Imtiaz said the protests seen around the world, not just in our country, include people of different religions and political inclinations. He emphasised that this issue is not religious, pointing to the tacit complicity of Israel’s Muslim neighbours in the occupation of Palestine.
Imtiaz added that Bangladesh continues to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian cause due to its experience of atrocities during the Liberation War.
When asked about the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanction) movement against Israel, Imtiaz states that any sort of resistance is legitimate: “Everybody has their own way of shouting.”
AUGUST 7, 2014