Islamabad, Pakistan – Countrywide “Palestine Day” demonstrations have been held across Pakistan in solidarity with Palestinians, as the country’s foreign minister was accused of “anti-Semitism” during a US television appearance.
Demonstrations attended by hundreds were held in Karachi, the country’s biggest city, as well as the eastern city of Lahore, the capital Islamabad, and elsewhere on Friday following midday Muslim prayers.
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“This was just an expression on behalf of the people of Pakistan and the government of Pakistan that we stand by the people of Palestine and … we strongly condemn Israeli aggression against innocent Palestinians and also the [raiding] of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” said Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.
The demonstrations came after the announcement of a ceasefire by Israel and Hamas in Gaza, bringing a suspension of hostilities – an 11-day conflict that has seen at least 232 Palestinians killed by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, with 12 Israelis killed by Palestinian rocket fire.
On Friday, the tenuous ceasefire was tested when Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, firing tear gas at worshippers after Friday prayers.
Information Minister Chaudhry termed earlier Israeli raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound “unacceptable”, and condemned “the indiscriminate and excessive use of force by Israeli occupation forces [targeting] innocent Palestinians”.
In Pakistan, demonstrators held aloft Pakistani and Palestinian flags at many demonstrations across the country after Prime Minister Imran Khan called for a day of solidarity earlier this week.
In Islamabad, hundreds gathered at a rally organised by the religious Jamaat-e-Islami political party, where speakers called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
An explosion took place at a pro-Palestine rally in the southwestern town of Chaman, killing at least seven people and wounding 17 others, hospital officials said. There were no immediate claims of responsibility.
FM accused of anti-Semitism
Earlier on Friday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s remarks stirred controversy and he was accused of “anti-Semitism” by a journalist during an interview with US-based television news channel CNN.
Qureshi started the interview, which took place before the ceasefire was announced, by saying that he believed that world opinion was changing and “the pressure of public opinion is mounting”, making a ceasefire “inevitable”.
“Israel is losing out,” he said. “They are losing the media war, despite their connections. They are losing the media war.”
Pressed by journalist Bianna Golodryga on what Qureshi meant by “connections”, the foreign minister said: “Deep pockets.”
“They are very influential people, I mean they control media,” he added, in response to a follow-up question.
Journalist Golodryga then accused Qureshi of making an “anti-Semitic remark”, a claim that he denied.
Later on Friday, Pakistan’s foreign office issued a brief statement on the accusation, denying any wrongdoing on the part of the foreign minister.
“The foreign minister’s remarks made during his interview with the CNN cannot be construed as anti-Semitic by any stretch of the imagination,” said Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri.
“Any twist given to the foreign minister’s remarks would, unfortunately, prove the very point he was making.”
Common anti-Semitic tropes include longstanding myths that Jews control the media, as well as the global economy, governance, and institutions.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.