Until recently, Bangladeshi passports bore the words “This passport is valid for all the countries of the world except Israel.” But newly issued identification documents dropped the text, fueling speculation that Bangladesh might be the next Muslim country to normalize relations with Jerusalem—despite the fact that the country’s laws still forbid travel to the Jewish state. Mike Wagenheim writes:
Economic and military cooperation is believed to be ongoing between the two countries, regardless of official diplomatic status. Multiple media reports indicate that Bangladesh has purchased Israeli military-grade technology, and the World Bank’s World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) database showed that between 2010 and 2018, Israel imported products worth around $333.74 million that originated from Bangladesh. WITS data show that Israeli exports eventually making their way to Bangladesh stood at $3.67 million between 2009 and 2015.
Despite the lack of ties today, Israel was an early supporter of Bangladesh during its war of independence from Pakistan in the early 1970s and was one of the first nations to recognize independent Bangladesh. Nevertheless, the country’s original leaders shunned Israel in favor of the PLO leader Yasir Arafat, who had sided with Pakistan.
[The pro-Israel journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib] Choudhury faced charges of sedition, treason, blasphemy, and espionage in part for attempting to attend a conference of the Hebrew Writers’ Association in Tel Aviv in 2004. He was beaten, jailed in solitary confinement for seventeen months, and denied medical treatment.
However, one of Bangladesh’s most revered war heroes was Jewish. Lieutenant General Jack Farj Rafael Jacob, an officer in the Indian army, played a crucial role in negotiating the surrender of Pakistan in Dhaka during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.