are among a shrinking number of people that do not have access to them
because of their own government. BNP-Jamaat and Awami League
governments both refused to end an antiquated ban on travel to
Israel—one that Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and most
other countries abandoned long ago.And so far, Bangladesh’s current
leaders have not changed things.
At a seminar recently, an Egyptian-born American related this story.
Several years ago, her brother was in Gaza on business when he was
felled by a stroke. He needed immediate medical care and his Arab
colleagues gave him a choice. They could airlift him to “the finest
hospital in Cairo,” or, his colleagues told him, if he wanted to
survive, they could get him to Israel’s Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
He chose Israel. Later he told his family that he received the same
care and treatment as any Israeli did.
In late 2003, a one-week Iraqi infant was diagnosed with a fatal heart
defect. The Iraqi doctors could not help her, but the Americans got her
to the Wolfson Medical Center near Tel Aviv where she underwent
life-saving surgery. Earlier this year, six children from Ethiopia,
Nigeria, and Gaza also received medical care in Israel that saved their
Israel has become a world-class center for a wide variety of medical
care: cardio-vascular problems; diabetes, eye diseases, severe facial
defects are only a small number. But Bangladeshis are among a shrinking
number of people that do not have access to them because of their own
government. BNP-Jamaat and Awami League governments both refused to end
an antiquated ban on travel to Israel—one that Egypt, Jordan, the
Palestinian Authority, and most other countries abandoned long ago. And
so far, Bangladesh’s current leaders have not changed things.
MASHAV is an organization developed through the Israeli Ministry for
Foreign Affairs that works with people all over the world. It focuses
on helping people in need with those services and technologies “in
which Israel has a comparative advantage.” It identifies “fields where
Israel has expertise directly relevant to emerging nations,” such as
water resource management, agriculture, community development,
emergency medicine, refugee absorption, employment programs, and many
others. One of its successful programs offers six-week courses in,
agriculture and related sciences, industrial development and
management, rural and urban economic development, and medicine and
public health. These are some of the most sought-after seminars in the
world. People from every continent, every religion, and especially
less-developed nations have gone to Israel to learn techniques
available only there. Unfortunately, if any Bangladeshis try to go
there and bring their people those benefits, they would be prevented
“I’m telling you,” Dr. Richard Benkin said, “the Israelis offered the
last government scholarships for these seminars. They offered to send
doctors who have cured certain types of blindness to Bangladeshi
villages. Free! The BNP said no thanks.” Dr. Benkin writes for several
Bangladeshi papers and has led the fight on behalf of Bangladeshi
journalist, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who has urged the government
for years to drop the travel ban. Benkin told me that he really wants
to help the people of Bangladesh—that he can help the people of
Bangladesh—but that the government has to do its part.
“That means first, dropping the charges against Salah Uddin Shoaib
Choudhury,” he said, “which every government has admitted are false and
with no basis. And it means ending the ban on travel to Israel—which
only hurts its own people. That’s true. Who else does it hurt?
Certainly not the Israelis. And it hasn’t had any affect whatsoever on
the Middle East situation. It’s beyond me why this new government
hasn’t done anything about it.”
Earlier this year, a group of religious Muslims also came out in favor
of dropping the ban. Khalefat Andolin Bangladesh wrote a letter to
Bangladesh’s civilian chief stating that the ban on travel to Israel
actually hurts religious Muslims. They noted that as long at the ban
exists, they are prevented from praying at al-Aqsa.
As long as the government of Bangladesh maintains the ban on travel to
Israel, it will be difficult to convince the United States and others
that it is really a moderate Muslim nation and an ally in the
international war on terror. “It instead stands alongside Iran, Syria,
and the rest of the world’s leading terror sponsors,” Benkin said.
By Hannah Brown, writes from USA
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