KARACHI: Social media is rife with reports of trade between Pakistan and Israel. Many international media outlets also highlighted it. However, it was not direct trade between the two countries, as...
KARACHI: Social media is rife with reports of trade between Pakistan and Israel. Many international media outlets also highlighted it. However, it was not direct trade between the two countries, as they have no diplomatic relations.
Fishel BenKhald is a Pakistani citizen from Sindh with a Jewish background who is a strong proponent of trade ties between Israel and Pakistan. He is engaged in the business of the Kosher food industry. On March 28, Fishel claimed to have exported the first consignment of dates, dry fruit and spices from Pakistan to Israel via the UAE.
He congratulated himself on being the first Pakistani to be able to export Pakistani products to Israel.
On March 30, Voice of America ran a story titled, “Rare Trade Occurs Between Pakistan, and Israel.” It created a perception that formal trade had occurred between Israel and Pakistan. Meanwhile, the American Jewish Congress (AJC) also released a “Statement on Trade between the State of Israel and Pakistan.”
The statement only welcomed the small step at an individual level by Fishel BenKhald and some merchants from Jerusalem and Haifa.
Yet, the same was treated as if official trade had begun between the two countries. The issue was further politicized by the opposition parties without knowing the facts. Many Pakistani politicians and religious scholars came up with statements against trade ties with Israel. As a result, there was a public outcry and social media backlash against the government for initiating trade with Israel. Little does anyone know that this entire transaction was conducted indirectly. There was no direct role of the Pakistani government in it. The AJC statement also testifies to it. The facts of the latest transaction are simple. The shipment of Pakistan-origin products was offloaded in Israel through a private transaction of Pakistani-Jewish businessman Fishel BenKhald. The deal was struck in the United Arab Emirates and the shipment was also booked from the United Arab Emirates, and not from Pakistan. Moreover, the shipment was marked for the UAE and not Israel. Israel removed the restriction of import licenses for Pakistani products in 2005. So, there was no need for any special licenses or permits to conduct this trade. Thus, the entire controversy is based on fake news and propaganda only. The shipment
from Pakistan was sent to Israel by a Jewish citizen of Pakistan through the UAE consulate. No Pakistani official was involved in the activity nor did BenKhald require their help to do so because he had sent the items through the UAE. It was Imran Khan’s government that allowed Benkhald to travel to Israel in 2019.
To allow him to do so, the Pakistani passport was declared valid for Israel by the PTI government. BenKhald was the first Pakistani to be officially allowed by the Pakistani government to travel to Israel. It was during the PTI government that reports emerged of increasing contacts between the two countries. Earlier, such a report appeared during the Musharraf government. BenKhald was among a group of Pakistanis who undertook a rare trip to Israel last year and visited the Jewish prayer site in Jerusalem known as the Western Wall, more commonly known as the Wailing Wall. The 15-member group of primarily Pakistani-Americans, who traveled on their US passports, was organized by an American Muslim women activist group in collaboration with an Israeli organization promoting ties with Muslim countries.