Recently, a fifteen-member Pakistani delegation, organized by two Pakistani civic groups, returned from a visit to the Jewish state. Among the participants were Ahmed Qureshi, one of the country’s leading journalists, and Fishel BenKhald, one of its few Jews. Hamza Azhar Salam explains the mission’s significance:
The contention that Israel and/or Jews are obsessively engaged in a long-term plot to destabilize or defang Pakistan (in cahoots with Islamabad’s enemies), and that Pakistan has a foundational, if not sanctified, duty to dismantle Israel, is practically an iron rule of Pakistani grassroots and political discourse.
Every Pakistani passport includes a warning in bold letters that it is valid for all countries except Israel. Nonetheless, Qureshi and BenKhald entered Israel on their Pakistani passports, making it the first-ever trip of its kind: a Pakistani journalist on a Pakistani passport, and an individual whose Pakistani passport states that he is a Jew, both travelled to Israel and, no less significantly, were able to re-enter Pakistan without hindrance.
Without at least an overt nudge from powerful quarters, no Pakistani journalist could make this public trip to Israel and return safely, reflecting how attitudes pertaining to Israel have evolved in the world’s only Muslim nuclear power. . . . With the UAE acting as a leader in the diplomacy of the Muslim world, other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Oman, and Qatar are well on their way to recognizing the advantages of normalization and of joining the Abraham Accords.
Yet, as Salam explains, the visit also sparked a great deal of public outcry in Pakistan—a testament to how deeply anti-Semitic currents run in the country.