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A Juggling Act

Pakistan should recognize Israel, is the view of an Israeli
professor, who says there is a compelling argument that
Pakistanis and Israelis can prosper with improved ties.

By Professor Gil Troy | February 2021


It is time for Pakistan to establish and enjoy full diplomatic relations with Israel – actually, it’s long overdue. As a proud people with a rich past, Pakistanis should ask themselves: ”How long do we allow ourselves to be held hostage by Palestinian extremists – not mainstream Palestinians – who have abused their people for so long?” Today, in 2021, the question is sharper: why keep Pakistan handcuffed to yesterday’s stale ways, when others in the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and elsewhere are benefiting big-time – economically, diplomatically, existentially – by leaping ahead toward peace.

There’s a compelling financial argument imagining how Pakistanis and Israelis can prosper with improved ties, from joint start-ups to thrilling tourism; I leave that to the economists and entrepreneurs. There’s a compelling geopolitical argument explaining how Pakistan and Israel can strengthen one another in this complicated world – and have each other’s back; I leave that to the diplomats. And there’s a compelling legal and moral argument proving that the systematic, obsessive, demonization of Israel, the Jewish state, after centuries of Jew-hatred, is not just wrong but backfires, encouraging Palestinian maximalists and terrorists while undermining Palestinian bridge-builders; I leave that to the lawyers and philosophers.

Instead, as a historian – and a Zionist – I wish to address you, the people of Pakistan, as a friend, as a brother. I’m struck by our many commonalities – and how much we can learn from one another.

Zionism is the movement of Jewish nationalism to establish, protect, and perfect the Jewish State. Three central principles guide Zionism. First, that the Jews are a people (Am in Hebrew), not just a religion. Second, that the Jews have ancient ties to a particular homeland, Israel (which doesn’t mean others may not too). And third, like 191 other countries in the world today, the Jews have a right to establish a Jewish democratic state in their homeland – as the UN acknowledged on November 29, 1947.

Modern Zionism’s founder, Theodor Herzl, created a lovely word that could jumpstart a new dialogue between Israel and Pakistan – as well as Jews and Muslims worldwide. Herzl dreamed of altneuland – old-new land – excited by the opportunities and challenges involved in establishing a modern, cutting-edge country rooted in an ancient civilization. Having grown up in America – the New World – I particularly appreciate the excitement of figuring out how to make Israel as up-to-date as possible, while respecting our traditions, our old ways, our age-old wisdom. We must be anchored in the past, to soar in the present – and create a meaningful future.

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The writer is a Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University. He is the author of nine books on American history and three books on Zionism, including The Zionist Ideas. His book, Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, co-authored with his neighbour in Jerusalem, Natan Sharansky, was just published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. He has recently been designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “Positively Influencing Jewish Life”. He can be reached at

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One thought on “A Juggling Act

  • February 2, 2021 at 12:28 am

    Prof. Troy makes some excellent points, Both Pakistan and Israel, ethnoreligious states. were born in conflict. Both have sought, regardless of its continuing, to uplift their peoples. Both would benefit greatly from mutual recognition, a giant step further for the Abraham Accords