Friday, April 4, 2008

Israel's Tehran connection

Israel, while supposedly observing an ironclad boycott of all things Iranian, is happily buying Iranian oil

By Richard Silverstein
The Guardian

"If you've ever wondered about the definition of hypocrisy you'll find the answer right here.

Last month the Swiss foreign minister visited Iran and, together with President Ahmadinejad, attended the signing of a multi-billion euro contract for Iran to supply Switzerland with large amounts of natural gas over the next 25 years.

The US State Department immediately condemned the deal and said it would be investigating whether it breached the Iran Sanctions Act. Israel complained too, describing the Swiss minister's visit to Tehran as an "act unfriendly to Israel". Various Jewish groups also joined in the protests, including the World Jewish Congress.

This righteous indignation was entirely predictable but more than a little odd nevertheless. On March 30, the Swiss newspaper Sonntag retaliated with the revelation that Israel, supposedly observing an ironclad boycott of all things Iranian, has been buying Iranian oil for years.

The story is in German but Israeli journalist Shraga Elam has provided me with a translation which I'll quote from here.

"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 [March 18] ...

"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 liked 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 necessary 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." .....

It's interesting to note from a discussion (in Hebrew) on the Kedma website 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 its ties with Iran. Do I hear the word "hypocrisy"?"

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