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ISSN 1563-9304 | Jiashthy 14 1414 BS, Monday | May 28, 2007
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Highlights


Ban on Israel Travel Deprives Bangladeshis


Monday May 28 2007 14:55:33 PM BDT

By Hannah Brown, USA

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.

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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 lives.

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 and arrested.

“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.

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By Hannah Brown, writes from USA
E mail: hannahwrite@comcast.net

 



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