If anyone is looking for the definition of hypocrisy you’ll find it right here with the news that Israel, supposedly observing an ironclad boycott of all things Iranian, has been buying Iranian oil for years. Iris Borchardt-Hefets of Kedma forwarded to me an e mail from Israeli journalist Shraga Elam with his English translation of this article published in the Swiss paper, Sonntag (German):
Israel buys Iranian Oil
In spite of its own calls for boycott of Iran, Israelis profit from the black gold of the arch enemy, delivered via Europe.
Israel protested strongly against the gas deal between Iran and the Swiss Elektrizitaetsgesellschaft Laufenburg. But investigations show that Israel itself gets oil from its enemy.
by Shraga Elam
Israel imports Iranian oil on a large scale even though contacts with Iran and purchasing of its products are officially boycotted by Israel. Israel gets around the boycott by having the oil delivered via Europe. A reliable Israeli energy newsletter, EnergiaNews, reported this last week (18.3.2008)…
EnergiaNews got the information about the Iran trade from sources with ties to the management of Israeli Oil Refineries Ltd…According to EnergiaNews the Iranian oil is loved in Israel because its quality is better than other crude oils.
The report by EnergiaNews editor Moshe Shalev states that the Iranian oil reaches various European ports, mainly in Rotterdam. It is bought by Israelis and the needed European bill of lading and insurance papers are supplied. Then it is transported to Haifa in Israel. The importer is the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Co. (EAPC), which keeps its oil sources secret.
Half of EAPC actually belongs to Iran, as it was founded in 1968 by the Shah jointly with the state of Israel. In order not to embarrass Iran, the legal work was done through a company in Geneva/Switzerland, Trans-Asiatic Oil. Since the Shah’s fall there have been legal proceedings against the company by Iran. The reason: Israel refuses to recognize Iranian claims on debts to the extent of several billion dollars.
It is not clear if the Iranian exporters know about Israeli purchases of their oil. At the other end, the Israeli buyers and governmental offices are well aware of where the high-grade oil comes from, although it is a blatant defiance of the boycott. The EnergiaNews article even made it through Israeli censorship, which asked only for some changes in the text. The fact that the report cleared the censors increases the credibility of the information. In the past, such reports were forbidden.
When questioned by Sonntag, an energy expert of one of the leading Israeli papers confirmed the EnergiaNews report: Israel has been importing Iranian oil for many years. The expert stressed, however, that the purchases were made on the free market and not directly from Iran.
Although the issue is importing boycotted commodities, and Israel is the driving force behind the campaign against Iran, still the EnergiaNews scoop was not picked up by Israeli media.
The spokeperson of Oil Refineries Ltd, Moshe Debby, denied that his company imports and processes Iranian oil. His statement contradicts articles published in Israel in October 2006. At that time, censorship policy was relaxed and…one could read in Ha’aretz from 5 October 2006 that the Israeli company Paz planned to import Iranian oil to be refined in Israel, part to be delivered to the Palestinian Authority and a part to be sold on the Israeli market.
In the same article the Israeli energy minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer said pragmatically: “Every attempt for contact with an enemy state that serves Israeli business and economic interests, strengthens the stability of the region.” And from the Israeli foreign ministry one could hear that it is not their business to inquire where the oil comes from.
[the following was omitted from the published version] The EnergiaNews report fits into the old pattern of trade between the two countries. While…AIPAC led a campaign for sanctions against Iran in the 90’s, Israel had extensive trade with Iran, estimated by Jane’s Defence to be worth several hundred million dollars. For example, Israeli chemicals produced by Carmel Chemicals were exported with governmental permission to Iran (the author possesses documents from the Israeli trade ministry). The chemicals were sent to Europe and there got new documents and were transported to Iran. At the beginning, i.e., after the [Iranian revolution], European intermediaries were used, but as of 1996 Carmel Chemicals decided that it could deal directly with the Iranians.
Israeli weapon systems were sold to Iran also in the 90’s and there are reports confirming such deals in the Israeli media.
This begs the question: if Iran is, as Bibi Netanyahu argues, an existential threat to Israel, why does the government allow such trade? Would Israel have the U.S. attack Iran’s nuclear program and provoke a potential region-wide conflict while it cannot seem to wean itself from high quality Iranian crude? You’d think if Israelis are cowering in fear from an Iranian bomb and the arch anti-Semite Ahmadinejad, they wouldn’t want to trade with such an enemy.
Further, in order to break Israel’s boycott of Hamas, I presume the latter would have to find and develop similar high grade petroleum resources in the Mediterranean. Of course, such a find has been discovered but Israel has blocked its exploration perhaps not to be tempted by such a prospect of breaking its own boycott.
When is a boycott not a boycott? When it’s in your naked economic interest to circumvent it apparently. But one should ask: if Israel doesn’t honor its self-declared boycott of Iran, why should the rest of the world honor its boycott of Hamas and Gaza?? If Israel doesn’t honor its own boycott, then why should members of Congress vote with AIPAC when it proposes a measure that even Israel honors only in the breach??
Interesting to note in the Kedma comments thread (Hebrew) that Israel does not formally define Iran as an “enemy nation” and therefore in a strictly legal sense such trade is permissible. Ironically, Iran too has a boycott against Israel in place and is violating its own measures in that regard. Furthermore, the same commenter notes that Israel last week dismissed attempts to engage Syria in a diplomatic process as a failure because Syria refuses to renounce ties with Iran. Do I hear the word “hypocrisy??”
Unfortunately, this story has been reported neither in the Israeli mainstream media nor anywhere outside Israel other than Switzerland–until now.