The visit of a few Pakistanis to Israel unleashed wild accusations and anti-Semitic comments by social media trolls.
by Massimo Introvigne
A nice Pakistani girl shakes hands with Israeli President Isaac Herzog. Her name is Aisha Bajwa. The Chief of Staff of the Pakistani Army is General Qamar Bajwa. Immediately, trolls start spreading on social media the theory that General Bajwa and current Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif are ready to renege the traditional anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian position of Pakistan, offering as evidence the picture where “the niece of Bajwa” meets Herzog as “part of a delegation of Pakistani Jews” who is visiting Israel.
It happened last week, and there was only one problem with this theory. Aisha Bajwa is not the niece of General Bajwa. The two share the same last name but are not related. She is a Pakistani American, and the visit to Israel was organized by a group from the United States, not Pakistan, called American Muslim Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council (AMMWEC), which is active in interreligious dialogue.
It is true that the meeting included a few citizens of Pakistan, who went to Israel in their private capacity, such as journalist Ahmed Quraishi, whose show on the state television PTV was cancelled by the network following the assault against the trip.
It seems that the campaign was launched by followers of the ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan and orchestrated by one of the leaders of his party, former Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari. They took advantage of tweets that praised the new Sharif government for allowing a Pakistani Jew called Fishel BenKhald to travel to Israel, even if Pakistani passports include a specific mention that holders are not authorized to visit the Jewish state. BenKhald is one of the few Jews who bravely indicates Judaism as his religion in official Pakistani documents. Most Jews hide their religious identity for fear of discrimination.
BenKhald is the only Pakistani Jew who was part of the group, which mostly consisted of Muslims. There was no “delegation of Pakistani Jews.”
While the decision of the Pakistani government to allow BenKhald to visit Israel is praiseworthy, it has been clarified that it had been taken when Imran Khan was still in power. That Khan supporters use the incident to attack his successor as pro-Israeli is thus ludicrous.
More alarming is the obvious anti-Semitism on display on social media among those who criticized the trip.
Pakistani Jews are now reduced to less than 1,000. Most of them left Pakistan to Israel or the West after the Partition. Their historical Magain Salome synagogue in Karachi was demolished by the government of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1988 despite international protests.