New Bangladesh passport fuels speculation over normalization of ties between Bangladesh and Israel

Bangladeshi passports will no longer bear the text “valid for all countries of the world except Israel,” officials confirmed.

The Bangladeshi passports earlier had a note written on them that said: “This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel”.

Bangladesh has removed the clause “except Israel” from its new e-passport, fueling debates on whether the country might normalize ties with Israel and pave the way for Bangladeshi nationals to visit the Middle Eastern country.

But six months ago, when Bangladesh rolled out the electronic-chip e-passport, the “except Israel” clause was omitted without public announcement.

News of the change spread when two Bangladeshi nationals claimed two weeks ago they received passports with “this passport is valid for all countries of the world” written on them.

Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal soon after acknowledged the change, saying that his government removed the words “except Israel” to ensure that the passports meet “international standards.”

But, just a few months ago, Bangladesh dropped two words, “except Israel”, from the new electronic passports.

The South Asian nation of Bangladesh announced on Saturday that its passports will no longer bear the text “valid for all countries of the world except Israel,” essentially lifting a decades-long travel ban.

Senior officials announced that the new ruling does not mark a change in its Middle East policy, however. Bangladesh does not recognize the existence of Israel and Bangladeshi citizens attempting to travel to Israel have been subject to arrest and imprisonment.

In one high profile incident, former Weekly Blitz editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was sentenced to an extended jail sentence after attempting to travel to Israel in order to attend a conference.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters on Saturday that the text singling out Israel was being made in order to comply with “international standards,” insisting that “our foreign policy has not changed,” Bangladesh news website BDNews24 reported.

Bangladeshi passport shows the word “except Israel”

Since the South Asian Muslim majority country came into being in 1971, it has openly affirmed its position in favor of Palestine and against the Israeli oppression in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Great news! #Bangladesh has removed travel ban to Israel,” tweeted Gilad Cohen, Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Asia and the Pacific. “This is a welcome step & I call on the Bangladeshi government to move forward and establish diplomatic ties with #Israel so both our peoples could benefit & prosper.”

“Shall we be able to ban a Bangladeshi from doing business with Israel? I don’t see a reason to object if they (Israel) accept our passport. It’s a different issue whether we will ban it officially. But writing this on the passport does not matter much in the relationship,” former Bangladeshi diplomat M. Humayun Kabir told BDNews24.

“It could be that Bangladesh has people who can do business with Israel. But it does not mean we are establishing ties,” Kabir added.

Despite the official hostility between the two countries, earlier this year an investigation by Al Jazeera revealed that the Muslim country purchased surveillance technology produced by an Israeli company.

Al Jazeera’s investigative unit obtained documents showing the sale of “passive” cell phone monitoring and interception systems made by the Israeli cyber-surveillance firm PicSix to the Bangladesh army. The documents show that despite the fact that the company is registered in Israel, Israel is not the country of origin for the sale, but rather Hungary.

Al Jazeera’s report detailed how the sale was orchestrated through a middleman in Thailand. In a recording, the broker is caught admitting that the so-called P6 Interception system is actually Israeli-made.

A source claimed that representatives from the Israeli company met with those from Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Forces Intelligence in Hungary, where they “illegally intercepted calls” to demonstrate the technology’s abilities.

There is no Israeli embassy in Bangladesh and no bilateral trade between the two countries. Bangladesh has been supporting a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Pakistan is now the last remaining country whose passports read ‘this passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel.’

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