Could Bangladesh Join Other Muslim Countries in Breaking the Taboo on Relations with Israel?

Dec. 24 2021

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.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Bangladesh, Israel diplomacy, Jewish-Muslim Relations, Yasir Arafat

 

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy